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City’s 10-Point Plan to Reform RPD Covers Recruitment, Policies, Training and Officer Wellness

Staff report

Proposals to reform policing in Rochester include reducing the size of the RPD and reallocating those resources to other programs. The draft of the plan to meet Executive Order 203 was released Feb. 4, 2021. File photo

A new collective bargaining agreement with the Rochester Police Department, reducing the size of the department and having the state change the process for hiring and promotions are among the proposals from Mayor Lovely Warren and a working group to reimagine policing in Rochester.

The proposal also has a provision for the well-being of officers.

The nearly 700-page draft proposal was released at 7 p.m. Feb. 4 in an online news conference and can be downloaded at www.cityofrochester.gov/executiveorder203/.

The proposal is the city’s response to Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s Executive Order 203 that municipalities reform their police departments or risk losing state funding. The document is due April 1. The mayor will announce how the public can comment on the draft, which had input from the Police Accountability Board, United Christian Leadership Ministries, the RASE Commission and the RPD.

In addition to the proposals, the draft contains background information and the recommendations of each contributing group except the RASE Commission. It still is working on its recommendations and those will be included when submitted.

“This is a very long document,” Warren said in her online presentation of the draft proposal. “We would like for you to take the time to review it and provide us with feedback.”

Residents can comment online at cityofrochester.gov/executiveorder203/. The city also is planning a telephone town hall for those who lack online resources. Additionally, the mayor’s office is holding events with community groups. Those interested can email mayor@cityofrochester.gov to request a presentation.

The last day for feedback is March 4.

Warren said the draft is just that and that the document that goes to City Council for a vote next month will reflect as much citizen comment as possible.

The proposal has 10 major points:

Accountability: Petition the State of New York to amend the Taylor Law and the Triborough Agreement to allow the city to terminate RPD personnel immediately for cause and enable the city to develop a completely new collective bargaining agreement.

Community Engagement and Programming: Advocate for more resources and financial support for programs such as mental health programs; youth and recreation programs; job development; Pathways to Peace; conflict resolution programs; Rise Up Rochester; ROC the Peace; United Christian Leadership Ministry (UCLM) Light the Way; Save Our Youth; Squash the Beef; and other evidence-based programs that include oversight, evaluation, transparency and training so that programs that are effective can be expanded and improved.

Data, Technology and Transparency: Expand the RPD Open Data Portal and Data Sharing with information on police-citizen interaction types, demographics (i.e. age, gender, race) of people involved, type of response and whether force was used, along with all other data that will allow Rochesterians to better understand the nature of police response.

Fostering a Community-Oriented Culture: Fund policies and practices that begin to inoculate the RPD from systemic oppression. These practices should include: educating officers using immersive training methods that teach how systemic racism and other forms of structural oppression, as opposed to mere “bias” or “prejudice,” can influence policing practices; reinforcing this training throughout officers’ careers; testing officers on their knowledge and providing assistance as necessary; and, creating and enforcing disciplinary rules that combat racism, misogyny and homophobia.

Officer Wellness: Consider appointing a Chief Resiliency Officer, similar to the program started by New Jersey Attorney General Grewal. The Chief Resiliency Officer is responsible for ensuring the implementation of the New Jersey Resiliency Program for Law Enforcement. This statewide program aims to help officers “to become better equipped to handle the daily stress of police work that, when left unchecked, may lead to physical ailments, depression and burnout.”

Police Policy, Strategies and Practices: Develop a policy limiting the use of spit socks or hoods and outlining strict guidelines for appropriate and safe use of spit socks if and when they are used.

RPD Recruitment: The city is requesting a complete overhaul of the state civil service hiring and promotion system. It is evident, and research shows that this practice has been, and continues to be, biased against communities of color. The city believes that the deciding factor of whether someone would be a good officer or manager should not be based on how well someone scores on a written civil service exam. The state should immediately convene a Civil Service Commission to review and change the process for governmental hiring and promotions.

Resizing the RPD: Aim to reduce RPD personnel within the next 5-10 years so it can reallocate these resources to other programs.

Response to Mental Health Calls: Support passage of Daniel’s Law and increase funding for first responder systems that appropriately replace police with social workers, mental health providers and other non-police personnel.

Training: Advocate for a change in N.Y. State law to require the state’s Division of Criminal Justice Services (DCJS) to mandate explicit and implicit bias, systemic racism, cultural competency and procedural justice training in the Basic Course for their Police Officer certification program. Mandate that this training be continued through required routine in-service courses. Advocate for funding for this additional mandated training.

Once the full draft report is released, it will be at www.cityofrochester.gov/executiveorder203.