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RPD Issues New Policies on Officer Conduct

Patti Singer
pattisinger@minorityreporter.net

Executive Deputy Chief Andre Anderson discusses changes to Rochester Police Department policies. Photo by Patti Singer/Minority Reporter Media Group

All members of the Rochester Police Department now are required to intervene if they believe unreasonable force or other misconduct is taking place.

The revision to what are called General Orders took effect March 15 and are part of a series of changes that will be released over the next few weeks. The department also revised its chokehold ban.

The new policies, which will be released in stages, are part of the RPD’s “commitment to better serving” the community and “are the result of a careful and extensive review of the existing policies,” according to a news release announcing the updates.

Under the duty to intervene:

  • all members have duty to intervene to prevent or stop any unreasonable use of force or other misconduct;
  • members failing to intervene can result in discipline or remedial measures;
  • any intervention must be reported to a supervisor as soon as practical; and
  • supervisors must address the behavior.

The duty to intervene is when “it is safe and feasible to do so,” but specifics are not given.

Executive Deputy Chief Andre Anderson held a news conference March 16 to expand on the announcement of the policies. However, the details of when an officer would step in when a colleague or superior were perceived to escalate a situation or otherwise act outside of policies were not addressed, other than to say the scene would need to be safe for all involved.

Anderson said officers intervene with their colleagues now, but the policy codifies that response and makes it part of the culture and expectations of the community.

The full order is at data-rpdny.opendata.arcgis.com/datasets/go-336-duty-to-intervene

Under the chokehold ban:

  • officers are prohibited from using chokeholds except in extreme circumstances where deadly physical force is authorized; and
  • the policy includes information regarding the new NYS Penal Law – Aggravated Strangulation

The ban includes “any method of restricting the flow of blood to the brain by compressing the sides of the neck where the carotid arteries are located.”

The complete order is at
data-rpdny.opendata.arcgis.com/datasets/go-341-chokeholds .

Anderson said chokeholds already had been banned but “we wanted to memorialize that in policy.”

The next policies to be released relate to mental hygiene detention and de-escalation. Other policies will address use of force and juvenile detention.

RPD periodically reviews policies and procedures, but these revisions have been prompted by recent events.

Each policy addresses issues that over the past year have brought scrutiny and criticism to the RPD, such as incidents involving Daniel Prude, the use of pepper spray and the conduct of officers at a scene.

The policies are being issued in a series to ensure that officers are trained and incorporate the changes into their work.

Anderson said some training information would be in written form, but other parts of acclimatization would come through role-plays and other participation. He said the department is considering bringing in national trainers for TEDtalk style presentations.

The Police Accountability Board was not consulted in the development of the changes, according to an email from executive director Conor Dwyer Reynolds to the board.

“If we were, we could have pushed to make sure these policies were evidence-based, implemented through thorough training, and enforced through rigorously applied discipline,” he wrote in the email that he sent to media. “Instead, we will have to simply investigate and criticize on the back end, which is a far less helpful thing to do than shape on the front end.”

He said the policies do not create any new disciplinary sanctions.