By Rodney Brown
During Mayor Warren’s run for office, community members had become vocal regarding the growing divide between the people who live in the city, and the officers who work there.
And, part of the problem may be the fact that the Rochester Police Department has largely operated out of two individual station houses since 2004, according to Rochester Police Department Chief Michael Ciminelli.
One precinct is located on the eastside of the river; the other is on the west. The city also added a downtown station in 2012.
As a result, during Warren’s bid for office, the mayor’s campaign promised to increase the department’s three-section patrol model to a five-section model. And Warren has kept her promise.
Recently, city council members authorized the mayor to contract the firm Architectura, in order to scout existing buildings for locations to design additional new station houses in February. The mayor’s office said she plans to identify the sites at the end of 2017.
In the RPD’s new model, the department will bisect the city to form the northeast, northwest, southeast and southwest quadrants. And, once the two additional station houses are in place, patrol operations will divide into 37 neighborhood-based beats, where each will be assigned to individual officers, per shift.
The average patrolled areas will then be reduced by nearly 40 percent, in order to encourage and produce communal interactions between residents of the neighborhoods, and the officers who patrol them.
“It’s very clear, since I became chief, what I do coincides with the Warren Administration,” Ciminelli stated. “We have a dual focus. One is to make this community as safe as possible, and the other is to build trust between the police department, and the community. Those are our two primary objectives. We do have violence in the city. However, the fact is, over the years, violence has been greatly reduced, to less than half of what it was 15 to 20 years ago. We’ve been on a downward trend. Having said that, any level of violence is a serious concern. And, frankly, this year, we’ve had an increase over shooting violence than we had last year.”
According to Ciminelli, much of the recent violence has been related to personal disputes, which have sometimes been settled at gunpoint, rather than with a less violent approach.
Relative to violence overall, James Comey, director of the Federal Bureau of Investigations, said the recent enhanced scrutiny of police tactics has caused officers to police less proactively, which has resulted in an increase of crime.
He called it, “The Ferguson Effect,” a theory in which officers have been reluctant to try and stop violence from happening, and have instead choosen to wait for calls to come in after a crime has been committed.
But, Ciminelli dismissed the theory.
“I can only speak for Rochester,” he said. “I don’t think that’s happening here. I see our officers every day and night, going out there, and being very proactive. I think, after the way we conducted ourselves after the tragedy on Genesee St., we did an unprecedented investigation. We not only arrested the people responsible for the drive-by shooting, but people that were responsible for other violent crimes. Our proactive seizure and confiscation of guns has also greatly increased in the last year. Overall, I think Rochester police officers are being very active in trying to protect this community.”
Nonetheless, residents of the 27th legislative district, who live in areas surrounding the Genesee St., Chili Ave. and Thurston Rd. corridors, have recently shown heightened concern regarding the public’s safety, after an array of shootings and stabbings.
And, the drive-by shooting of seven young people at the Boys and Girls Club on Genesee St. last August, which left three dead and four injured, has left residents on edge, and concerned about the safety of their children.
According to Ciminelli, the areas are generally safe; however, he said the department doesn’t want to downplay how important it is that we continue to do all that we can to reduce violence.
“We like where we are at now,” Ciminelli stated. “We’ve made significant changes in how we are doing our patrol operation. We are going into our sixth month of the new reorganization model, and I think it’s progressing well. We are getting a lot of good feed back from the community. They are seeing more officers out of their cars, engaging more. However, we’re not where we need to be yet; so, we will do a formal one-year evaluation of the reorganization. We are going to look at what we did, and the decisions we’ve made. And, if we think there’s a way to do it better; we are open to improving it, and finding a better way to do it. It’s a significant change from the way we’ve been doing things over the last 10 years. So, it’s going to take a period of time to transition, and see how this model is working. When I came on, you got a beat when you became a cop, and that beat became your home. You took a personal pride, and home-stake interest in it. We kind of lost that when we centralized. Part of it is a cultural change within the police department.”
Officially, the RPD’s reorganization took effect in April of 2015. Visit http://www.cityofrochester.gov/rpdreorganization/ for additional information regarding its reorganization.