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A Partnership Gives Voice to Perceptions of Monroe County Police

By Tyronda James 

Herb Alexander, director of Diversity & Equity at Roberts Wesleyan College. Alexander will serve as an executive project manager of Initiative.

Roberts Wesleyan College and Brighton Police Department have partnered to collect data regarding the perceptions of the black community on Monroe County Police Departments. 

The study beginning this month will identify, measure and understand perceptions and may also be used to help discern recruitment barriers that hinder the hiring and establishment of a more diverse police force.   The study will conclude July 2021.

The research will be conducted by the college’s Justice and Security Institute and Office of Diversity & Equity, who will administer surveys regionally to participants 16 to 25 years of age.  To protect the health, safety and anonymity of the participants, the survey will be administered digitally.  

“This is a critical step in the process of creating true change” said Herb Alexander, director of Diversity & Equity at Roberts Wesleyan College, “because it is giving a data-driven voice to segments of our community that have historically felt unheard.”  

Alexander will serve as an executive project manager throughout the study to ensure that research processes include thoughtful and respectful communication approaches that encourage understanding and participation amongst the participants and the community.

Alexander will lead the initiative along with Joseph Testani, director of the JSI and former Federal Bureau of Investigation agent, who served more than 32 years with extensive experience investigating and managing criminal and national security matters. Analytical support will also be provided by Jason Destein, who is crime and violence prevention strategist at Roberts Wesleyan College.  

“We are excited to work with Chief Catholdi on this important project and we are thankful for the support from NYS DCJS, as without them this wouldn’t have been possible,” Testani said. 

“We believe this study is a good first step in the overall effort to improve the relationship between the police and the Black community. I am not sure where this study will lead us, but everyone involved genuinely cares about what we are doing and has the absolute best intentions.” 

They will work collaboratively with Brighton Police Chief David Catholdi and present findings to the Brighton Police Department, the NYS Division of Criminal Justice Services and other regional law enforcement agencies. 

The initiative is supported by NYS’s DCJS and its Criminal Justice Research Consortium that connects police, prosecutors and probation professionals with academics across the state to research and develop evidence-based approaches addressing public safety concerns. 

The Research Consortium includes 67 researchers from 32 colleges and universities, including 12 from the State University of New York system. 

“This study will hopefully shed some light on the barriers law enforcement agencies face in recruiting people of color and provide us with evidenced-based strategies to help us diversify our departments,” said Catholdi. 

Questions will explore community perceptions and concerns that exist, how they were formed and what solutions or recommendations can be implemented to improve relationships between police and underserved communities.    

Catholdi said he was excited to partner with Roberts Wesleyan College and the Justice and Security Institute, when approached about the opportunity. 

“Law enforcement in general, including agencies in Monroe County, struggle to diversify their departments. To help us build trust and legitimacy, we need to have our departments’ demographics reflect the communities we serve,” said Catholdi. 

“I look forward to this partnership and using the results from this important study to help us achieve diversity in our organization. I also would like to thank the team at the Division of Criminal Justice Services as they were instrumental in getting us the grant to go forward with this project.”