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Greece Group Ponders Relationship with Police after Chief’s Resignation

Patti Singer

Dina Johnson, right, organized a march in June 2020 in Greece. File photo

Over the past couple of years, Dina Johnson has been building a relationship with the previos two chiefs of the Greece Police Department, Patrick Phelan and then his successor, Andrew Forsythe.

Each has supported her efforts to raise awareness among all town residents of the need for diversity and inclusion.

Now with Forsythe forced to resign in October after crashing his official vehicle and being charged in November by the Monroe County District Attorney with the misdemeanor of driving while intoxicated and the violation of leaving the scene of an accident, Johnson feels she’s back at the beginning.

“I’ve got to start all over again because now I have to get the trusting relationship with the new chief and be able to have this conversation,” said Johnson, who helped start the Monroe County Family Coalition.

“This has been on my mind a lot,” said Johnson. “And I was even wondering, where are we going now, looking for a new police chief?”

While the rest of Greece may be asking the same thing, the question weighs on Johnson and the coalition. She said several members expressed during a recent email exchange that they wanted to be involved in the search for a permanent chief.

Greece Town Supervisor Bill Reilich did not reply to three attempts to contact him — one phone message left at town hall and two emails sent to his town account — to answer questions about the police department and its connections to the minority community.

Greece is the largest town in Monroe County. Of its 95,499 residents, 8% identify and Black alone and 6.1% identify as Latino alone, according to U.S. Census Bureau Quick Facts as of July 2019.

The Rev. Lewis Stewart, president of United Christian Leadership Ministry, said Phelan and Forsythe attended his organization’s meetings.

Stewart, who for years has called for diversity awareness in the Rochester Police Department, lives in Greece and said he wanted the same measures for the department in his town. He said he had plans to contact Reilich to talk about the search for a chief, diversity among hires and the relationship between officers and minority residents.

“I think it’s vital that all police agencies sign on to something that’s going to uplift human rights and uplift a non-racist police force in our region,” Stewart said. “It’s incumbent on the town of Greece, as well as Brighton …. as well as Irondequoit … to bring them to the table so that we can all agree on certain principles which will be laid out. We were well on our way to doing this with Andrew Forsythe when that happenstance took place. We have to look at our approach again and move forward.”

He said he is forging relationships with Irondequoit Police Chief Alan Laird, who took over the role in the spring of 2020, and Brighton Police David Catholdi, who took over in September 2019.

Of the 50,055 residents in Irondequoit, 10% identify as Black alone and 8.8% identify as Latino alone. Of they 35,928 residents in Brighton, 6.2% identify as Black alone, and 5.1% identify as Latino alone.