Created: August 31, 2020 11:34 PM
ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WHEC) — A new proposal to require that members of the Rochester Police Department live in the City of Rochester received high marks, with some caveats, from community activists, and exasperation from police representatives.
"You got to know the community that you're working,” declared Wanda Ridgeway with Rise Up Rochester as the group held its “ROC the Peace” rally in downtown on Monday evening.
Advocates warned that something is missed when police are always strangers, dashing from 911 call to 911 call, coming into neighborhoods where they're not connected.
"They don't say 'Hello,’” Ridgeway explained. “They are coming in, guns drawn, quick to arrest people. They need to be able to know that person, if that person has a medical illness. And be able to help them in that way, and be like ‘Hey, listen, I got this.’”
"I think it will be a good idea for them to be in the city,” agreed Stephanie Lanier, also with Rise Up Rochester, “to know who the residents are, where they play at, what they do, all that stuff. Getting involved."
On Monday, Mayor Lovely Warren, city council members and Police Chief LaRon Singletary announced they're asking the state for legislation to allow a Rochester residency requirement. The mandate would not apply to current members of the force but would apply for future police hires.
"I think this adds another burden to the ability to have adequate staffing in the city,” warned Mike Mazzeo of the Rochester Locust Club police union.
Mazzeo complained that the plan is being pushed without any input from those it would actually affect and could make a manpower crunch even worse. As it is, fewer than 50 out of more than 700 Rochester police live in town.
"To put another requirement that will affect the ability to get people on our streets, to do the job that they're supposed to do,” he said, “I don't know how we're going to do it, quite frankly"
Advocates at the Ibero-American Action League say they appreciate that problem, especially given the sparse numbers of new police who have come from the city’s neighborhoods now.
Miguel Melendez with Ibero said better police-community connections would be worth what would have to be an intense new effort to recruit in town and maybe adjust how new police are recruited and brought onto the force.
“I think we have to look at the civil service exam,” he suggested. “Let’s be frank about it. I think from a policing perspective, we don’t have many young people that currently reside in the city that are aiming or striving to be part of the police force for one reason or another.”
On Monday afternoon, the Rochester area’s state Assemblyman Harry Bronson (D-138) sent out a statement saying, “I look forward to seeing the analyzing this policy and working with members of the city, including the mayor, council, and the community. This idea is interesting.”
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