City of Rochester looking to expand civilian public safety panel

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ROCHESTER, N.Y. — It’s a fairly new concept for the City of Rochester: A community based panel that helps screen potential candidates for the Rochester Police Department.

About five people have served on it during it’s first year, and the City is looking for more volunteers.

News10NBC’s Eriketa Cost has been speaking with some of the founders about why they think this is so important.

The panel is all about building trust between the community, and the Rochester Police Department.  Panelists are city residents — volunteering their own time, to interview candidates, and share feedback with the chief.

The goal is to expand to a panel of nine to twelve members.

Some qualifications other than being a city resident: You have to be at least 21, have a GED or diploma, and pass a background check.

Organizers say panelists join because they have an interest in community policing; how it works and how it can be improved. They commit for two years, and even go through a citizens police academy to learn about what goes into the job.

Before the candidate interviews with the chief, the panel will weigh in on its recommendations.

Now with current staffing shortages in the Police Department, News10NBC asked if there’s a sense of urgency for filling the panel.

“Not at the expense of getting people who will not be an appropriate fit for the urban environment,” says Dr. Dwight Fowler, the president of United Christian Leadership Ministries. “We do interact in an ongoing basis with the deputy chief, the commander, the chief.”

“Because we’re hoping in 2024, and 2025, to have much larger candidate pool to pull from, which is going to need more interviews,” says Dr. Rose Nichols, the director human resources for City of Rochester.

Panelists represent every sector of the city.

There’s currently a mix of different ethnicities, male and female, and ages range from 30s to retired.