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Former RPD Chief James Sheppard to run for Monroe County Legislature, says Community Engagement is Key

By Lisa Dumas

James Sheppard and Daughter

James Sheppard and Daughter

Former Rochester Police Department Chief James Sheppard has announced he’s running for Monroe County Legislature, in the 23rd Legislative District, in an effort to put his experience to work for the people, and youth, of the community.

“It is an incredible opportunity to put my experience to work, and progress for the people on this side of Rochester,” he stated.

Sheppard said his 33 years with the RPD, experience working with the New York State Division of Youth, and current volunteer work since his retirement in 2013, have motivated him to run for the position.

“Since I retired, I started working and volunteering at the Center for Youth, and I’m presently working in youth development,” he stated. “I really want to try to take these philosophies and principles, and teach them to young adults.”

Sheppard pointed to recent issues affecting the city such as the RPD’s decision to allow officers to wear body cameras, as well as youth fighting at the new RTS Transit Center, as generational issues, and said they are examples of situations where positive role models would help.

“In terms of the cameras, I fully support police officers wearing body cameras,” Sheppard stated. “It’s something we did explore before I left. In terms of trust in law enforcement, it’s something people want. But, I think, in terms of the police, we have to have more positive moments. If the only time you come across the police, it’s always negative; it’s never going to be positive. Police officers have to be very proactive in establishing relationships with the community.”

He also said it’s important to work together as a community when it comes to busing city school district kids to the downtown transit center.

“In terms of the busing issue, and kids downtown, I’m going to say it’s a 30-year problem,” Sheppard stated. “The simple solution is for them to be on yellow buses. If we’re not going to do that, we’re going to continue with this problem. But, I don’t think it’s a matter of one entity being responsible, whether it’s the city, or the police department, or the school district. I think we all have to address this issue together.”

Ultimately, Sheppard said he’d like to bring this idea of community engagement with him, to the Monroe County Legislature.

“Obviously, when you’re the police, you take the position of saying, “You’re going to do this, and you’re going to do what I say,” he stated. “But, as you mature, and move on, life is much more about engagement and collaboration. And, I see that, as I move into this new field; these are the skill sets that I would bring to the role.”

In addition, Sheppard said, although he’s no longer the chief of police, he expects to have the support of City Hall, and other Democrats behind him during his campaign.

“As far as being a Democrat, we’re all pretty much philosophically progressive, so I would expect that as well,” he stated.

Monroe County budget cuts to childcare spending, as well as ethical challenges the county has faced recently, are additional issues Sheppard said he also hopes to address as a legislator.

“The county can and should be doing more,” he stated.

There will be 29 County Legislature seats available in the upcoming fall election, and, since the current 23rd District Democratic Legislator, Paul Haney, is term-limited, he cannot run again for the role.

Park and Monroe Avenues, Cobbs Hill, South Winton Road, Browncroft and Winton Village are the areas which make up the 23rd Legislative District in the city.