Mayor Warren, faith leaders announce panel that will interview, review potential RPD hires

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WHEC)— Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren Thursday announced the launch of a new police reform initiative, this time, it is focused on the hiring of new police candidates.

In a new conference with the Rev. Lewis Stewart of United Christian Leadership Ministry, the two announced the "Civilian Public Safety Interview Panel" which will interview any new-hire candidates for RPD, and provide recommendations to the chief.

It’s part of Rochester’s response to former Governor Andrew Cuomo’s Executive Order 203., which called on police departments across the state to develop and implement reform policies following the murder of George Floyd in 2020.

According to Warren and Stewart, the panel will include roughly nine-12 people, with the city beginning to take applications for the panel in January.

As you may know, Warren will leave her position on Dec.1 as part of a plea deal on alleged campaign finance violations. Interim mayor James Smith will take over until mayor-elect Malik Evans is sworn in.

Warren said she is still the mayor and did not have to have Evans sign off on the program.

As far as what criteria the panel will look at, the two leaders broke it down:

  • Attitudes on "contemporary" policing"
  • Life experiences
  • Familiarity and involvement within the Rochester community
  • Implicit biases

Per the city, Stewart will sit on a three-person committee that will oversee the panel’s hiring process to do what it says will ensure credibility. The hiring committee will also include a member of the RPD and the city’s Department of Human Resources. Stewart, and the UCLM, have previously been involved in pushing for police reforms.

The reverend added panelists will have to be at least 21 years old, be trained in interviewing, will attend an "abbreviated" police academy, and cannot have a prior felony conviction. He said the total commitment will be roughly 2-3 years.

Stewart said the initiative is not "anti-policing", rather, it’s a move he says will make policing better.

View the news conference below, or click here.

[anvplayer video=”5071422″ station=”998131″]


Since the order was issued last June, Rochester, and its police department have undergone a number of changes. For starters, former Chief La’Ron Singletary was fired before he could retire in wake of the Death of Daniel Prude, for which Warren also received criticism for her handling.

Following Singletary’s firing, interim chief Cynthia Herriott-Sullivan took over and implemented a number of new policies and programs like:

  • Launching the website, which aims to help solve the nearly 600 cold cases in Rochester.
  • Helping to revise policies, including the Duty to Intervene, Chokehold Ban, new Mental Hygiene Detention policy and De-escalation policy.
  • Revising the department’s use of force policy and creating a new use of force for juveniles policy.
  • Creating a new video format for critical incident briefings.
  • Updating the department’s protest response plan.
  • Evaluating officer training and emphasizing the need for more education on compassion fatigue, de-escalation, mindset training, race relations, pediatrics, ethics, leadership, crisis intervention, excited delirium and mental and behavioral health response.
  • Creating the Chief’s Advisory Board.
  • Implementing violence reduction initiatives, including enhanced foot and bike patrols and targeted anti-violence details, including initiatives with federal partners.

Herriott-Sullivan retired in October, giving way to another interim chief, David Smith, who also outlined a list of priorities he’s implementing within the department.

Short-term goals he outlined include:

  • Continue to work on compliance with the Governor’s Executive Order 203
  • Enhance recruitment, specifically in regards to minority candidates
  • Continue the work begun by Chief Herriott-Sullivan to modify the hiring process to include community input
  • Continue to target strategically target known violent offenders in an effort to reduce violence
  • Continue to work with our Federal and Local Partners to pursue Federal Criminal Charges where and when appropriate
  • Expand the Department’s media capabilities to enhance transparency
  • Evaluate the Department’s core functions and identify more efficient ways of operating due to the current personnel shortages
  • Institute an Officer Wellness program

A permanent chief likely won’t be hired until next year. That hire will be made by Evans.

Additionally, the city has seen some transitions, itself, including new programs added. This includes Warren’s Office of Neighborhood Safety, which was launched in May. Additionally, the year saw the full funding of Rochester’s Police Accountability Board. The board, which is looking to fill positions, is still not accepting public complaints, but its website says it plans to start doing so in early 2022.

This is a developing story