One of Rochester’s most persistent problems is its high crime rate. It does not matter whether we are talking about violent crimes, property crimes, or vehicle crimes, Rochester’s crime has been excessive for years. Presently the crime rate in Rochester is higher than 95% of the cities in America! Though it has taken years of mismanagement to get to this point, there are many things we should do which would make a dramatic effect on reducing this.
First, we need to get patrol officers back on patrol. This may sound odd but right now there are too many officers with administrative, maintenance, or public perception assignments, which should be patrolling. We have several officers in the Office of Public Integrity which is supposed to be staffed by civilians, we have officers monitoring cameras, and we have officers acting as crossing guards downtown. These are just a few of the jobs which have come to be filled by patrol officers. If all the patrol officers were given patrol assignments, we would have 8 officers every day for each square mile of the city and still have room for some tactical and supervisors.
We also need to restore some professionalism in the force. Unfortunately there has been a lack of supervision for too long so many officers are performing their job poorly. Presently even when the officers commit crimes, like voiding tickets for friends and family, the punishment is only a nasty letter in their file. As a result, even if officers are assigned correctly, they know they do not need to do their job well. Davy Vara has chronicled this well with videos showing officers giving friends joy rides, providing unauthorized transport, and injuring citizens. Until the officers are properly supervised this will not end and unfortunately this has not happened under our present chief.
For many reasons much of our community has lost faith in the police. Restoring confidence is important and to do so we need to create an independent civilian review. This board must have the ability to independently investigate complaints against the department and an independent arbitrator to rule on these findings. This will provide citizens with an opportunity to get their complaints heard and provide a strong check upon police misconduct.
We also need to free up officers to do more community policing. There are many little things which always seem to precede worse problems like trash and noise. If we could crack down on these, then it would send a message to people that the police are watching and help strengthen neighborhoods. Further, it would greatly improve people’s quality of life.
Finally, we can start using restorative techniques to solve problems. The focus of this is to find solutions rather than to punish wrong doers. This process will require cooperation between neighborhoods, community organizations, and other government agencies to provide opportunities and promote this program. With this, many problems can be solved before they erupt into violence.
With ideas like this, it is possible to reduce the effects of police mismanagement and start the long process of reducing violence in our city.