ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — Rochester City Council approved the city’s nearly $561 million budget proposal Tuesday evening, leaving many wondering how the new budget will impact public safety. At the center of the controversy: a reduction to the police department and full funding for the police accountability board.
The City of Rochester’s 2021-22 budget passed by a 5-4 vote, with lots of conversations surrounding police and accountability.
“I think some of the council members wanted to see the budget take a deeper cut into staffing of the RPD, I think they wanted to see more investments in some other servies that we provide to the community but our essential services remain stable,” said Willie Lightfoot, city council vice president.
Councilmember Mary Lupien introduced an amendment to further reduce RPD budget, wanting more money for community based crime prevention programs that have been successful elsewhere.
“Advanced peace and office of neighborhood safety originated in CA, with a 1.2 million dollar investment and we could have similar outcomes which is a 82% reduction in gun violence but without the proper investment were not giving the model a chance to work,” said Mary Lupien, city council East District.
That amendment was not adopted, however, the police department budget was still reduced by nearly 5 million. Most of the cuts coming from the transfer of Animal Services to the Department of Recreation and Human Services.
At the same time, the Police Accountability Board was given close to $5 million
The mayor is calling the city’s budget a win.
“We’re excited about basically a trifecta — the police department, the PAB, the person in crisis team — all working hand in hand to uplift our residents,” said Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren.
Leaders with Police Accountability Board say it not about taking money away from the department but rather putting the money towards a solution.
“Were in a crisis when it comes to public safety the question is what are the best solutions moving forward? The investment in the PAB is the investment in research and community work to figure out what actually works,” said Conor Dwyer Reynolds, Executive Director, Police Accountability Board.
The police accountability board now has the money to hire 50 new employees which they plan to start doing this summer.
Also included in the budget, nearly half a million will go towards a new ‘office of neighborhood safety and expansions have been made to the person in crisis team.