Public Safety

Public safety is the most important function of local government.  A government that cannot keep its people safe is one that is failing in its fundamental responsibility.  My 30 years in the Rochester Police Department, during which I walked the streets of every neighborhood in this City, has given me a unique perspective and the experience necessary to improve the safety of this community. 

 
 
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Where We Are:

Despite State and national trends of decreasing violence, Rochester continues to be plagued by “extremely high crime rates” (ACT Rochester, 2016).  By every measure, from property crime to violent crime to domestic violence, Rochester’s crime rates are higher than those of Monroe County, New York State and the rest of the nation (ACT Rochester, 2016).  In 2016 alone, there was a 30% increase in homicides from 2015.  According to the Center for Public Safety Initiatives at RIT, Rochester’s “upward trajectory of homicide rates” puts our city in the same league as Chicago, IL, Washington, DC, and Oakland, CA.

In the City of Rochester alone, there were 88 violent crimes per 10,000 residents in 2016, more than twice the rate of the rest of the region, New York State and the country.  “Concentrations in the Northeast and Southwest parts of the City, closest to the core….are a familiar pattern,” according to the RIT study.  Violence continues to impact our poor and minority communities the most.  But perhaps the most important indicator of public safety is how our residents feel about it.  In a Rochester Police Department citizen survey published earlier this year, residents were asked if they felt safer this year than last.  A whopping 73.7% answered no.  We can and we must do better.

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Our Path Forward:

Rochester has a violence problem.  The inability to acknowledge it is a prime example of Mayor Warren's lack of leadership.  There is no sense of outrage, no strategy, nothing beyond a 90-day public relations plan.  You can’t fix a problem if you pretend it doesn’t exist. Let me be clear.  Public safety is my #1 priority.  I will not stand by and wait for the next homicide; we will focus on deterring crime before it happens. 

 

A Reorganization That Works

The half-implemented reorganization has not improved police-community relations or public safety.  In the RPD’s 2016 community survey, 73% of residents reported that they did not feel safer since the reorganization; 83% of police officers said they felt they were less effective; and RPD’s annual report notes that arrests are down 12% over the previous two years.

  • Establish two additional section offices by 2019.  No delays, no excuses.  
     
  • Implement a staffing overhire.  Having additional officers at the ready will ensure that we have the coverage we need, regardless of vacations, illnesses, retirements and administrative reassignments.  We’ll save on overtime, too.
     
  • Coordinated use of all available resources.  We have tremendous partners in our surrounding police departments, Monroe County Sheriff’s Office, District Attorney and Office of Probation, New York State Police, Office of Parole, and Criminal Justice Services, US Attorney, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, and FBI among many others.  What we are missing is a strategic, comprehensive approach to crime reduction, which will be a priority of my administration. 

Policing In The Spirit Of Service

There will be a 24-7 culture change to improve police-community relations, not a 90-day public relations plan.  Policing in the Spirit of Service is based on programs like Blue Courage, which promotes the guardian approach to policing and the nobility of the career.  As Police Chief, I began this process and as Mayor, I will ensure it is fully established and embraced.

  • Focus on testing and hiring.  Police departments around the country are revising their testing and hiring processes to identify individual key values and character traits to round out intellectual and physical requirements of the job.  We will expand our screening process to ensure that the recruits we hire are committed to serving the community and have a guardian, not warrior, mentality.
     
  • Leadership training and development.  Policing in the Spirit of Service will be a key part of the training curriculum, from recruits to command staff.  We will incorporate training in implicit bias, procedural justice and fair and impartial policing.  Promotions will be based on candidates’ attitude toward and experience in the community, in addition to their overall job performance.
     
  • Community partnerships.  With the help of community partners, the RPD can expand its positive impact on neighborhoods.  We will return my “Chief on the Street” program; carry hygiene packets for interactions with the homeless and destitute; and actively participate in neighborhood festivals and events, particularly in areas where building trust is especially important.
Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced.
— James Baldwin

Transparency And Accountability

Restoring trust between the community and police requires regular and honest communication.  The police department works for you.  Good or bad, you should know what and how it’s doing.

  • Quarterly reporting of crime statistics.  Statistics on Part 1 and 2 crime will be shared publicly, in writing, with the media, neighborhood organizations and other stakeholders.  It will include performance data as well, so you can see how well we are measuring up in key areas.
  • Police identification and communication.  Police officers will identify themselves in interactions with the public, offer a business card with their contact information and the RPD’s complaint procedure, and explain the reason for a stop or other activity. 
     
  • Actively participate in social media.  Around the country, police departments are using Facebook, Twitter and other social media to provide timely information, engage the community, and promote the good work that they do.  Small investment, huge return.

Focus On Youth

Our young people need to know that the police are on their side, there to protect them and their families.  A better relationship with our community starts at the very beginning. 

  • Police Activities League.  I worked on this program from its inception; the opportunities for officers to engage with youth in sports and other activities will be expanded and celebrated.
     
  • Youth Police Academy.  We currently run a Citizens Police Academy to introduce civilians to policing policies and procedures and broaden their understanding of police work.  We will implement a Youth Police Academy for middle and high school students to increase their level of understanding of the public safety field and to get to know our officers.
     
  • Anti-Gang Efforts.  Around the State, the SNUG program has had dramatic success in working with ex-offenders and former gang members to intervene in gang activity and divert youth away from street violence.  We will work to expand SNUG and fold in Pathways to Peace outreach to ensure that we are engaging young adults in focused, positive and effective ways.

Emergency Preparedness

Rochester and Monroe County have a long tradition of leadership in public safety collaboration and innovation, evidenced by the joint Public Safety Training Facility and Office of Emergency Communications.  Sadly, this partnership has deteriorated to the point that this community now faces critical infrastructure weaknesses.

  • Upgraded CAD and radio systems.  Our 911 Center is working with an outdated Computer Aided Dispatch system and our emergency responders are upgrading to an expensive radio network riddled with problems.  The Mayor must take the lead in ensuring our responders and public are protected.
     
  • Emergency Planning and Response.  We must return the Rochester Fire Department to the leadership role in emergency response and preparedness.  The RFD was noticeably absent in the public response to this past winter’s windstorm; City residents need to be assured that the increasing severity of weather-related and other incidents will be dealt with by emergency management professionals.

Together We Can

Public safety is the most important function of local government.  A government that cannot keep its people safe is one that is failing in its fundamental responsibility.  My 30 years in the Rochester Police Department, during which I walked the streets of every neighborhood in this City, has given me a unique perspective and the experience necessary to improve the safety of this community. 

Add your name to fight to make progress on making our city safer.

Spread The Word

It takes passion, energy, ideas and healthy dialogue to make change; and I know that many of you are aching for change.

I promise that I will deliver that change – but I cannot do it without your help. If you like what I have to say and what I stand for, please help me right now by sharing my plan for public safety.