Former Rochester mayor Bill Johnson on challenges ahead of Malik Evans
ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WHEC) — Rochester’s incoming mayor is going over some undesirable territory all too familiar for one of his predecessors.
On Wednesday, Mayor-Elect Malik Evans talked about plans to deal with the city’s record murder numbers and mentioned similarities to the administration of Mayor Bill Johnson, who took office in 1994, as the city faced soaring homicides.
"’93 and ’94 were wild,” Evans noted. “And now ‘21 and ‘22 are challenges. So that’s not lost on me."
"Well, he’s going to put the test. He’s really going to be put to the test,” Johnson said, agreeing that, yes there are grim similarities between Rochester today and back when he took office.
Evans especially recalled the stunning murder of young Ralik Henton in November 1992.
With homicide numbers back up to new records, Johnson said, much as in his day, police face resistance, even protest, from the very communities they protect.
"The problem is that you’ve got people out there who truly, truly, believe that there is no useful place for police officers," he said. "I think we have seen some of the rhetoric that is really undermining the effectiveness of public safety officials to get proper control of the situation and I think we need to restore that."
With danger on the streets, Johnson said some neighborhoods are afraid to step forward and expose criminals but that, as in the past, there is a chance to mobilize them.
"There was a level of fear,” he recalled, “but there was more anger than fear, that people were seeing their neighborhoods being taken over and destroyed."
To fight crime, Johnson says Evans will have to loop in police critics on the City Council and non-uniformed community groups, something Evans has scheduled to do next week.
The new mayor is also still drawing up plans to start a nationwide search for a new police chief, something Johnson says will be difficult, and crucial.
“Nothing is more important than the next police chief of the Rochester Police Department,” Johnson said. “I think he’s got to go outside the community, and he’s got to persuade somebody to take this job when they look at it and say‘ I don’t know if I want this job. That’s a no-win situation.”
Evans asked that Rochesterians pause for two minutes at noon on Wednesday, Nov. 24 to reflect on the violence plaguing the city’s streets.