City leaders propose residency requirement for new RPD officers, union says it would hurt recruitment

Local News

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren announced a proposal Monday that would require new Rochester police officers to live within the city limits.

“Requiring our officers to live and work in our city is simply the right thing to do,” Mayor Warren said. “Our police needs to be a part of our community.”

To make this proposal happen, city leaders are calling up Rochester’s lawmakers in Albany to introduce and support legislation to allow the city to adopt a local law for the creation of the requirement.

The proposal would be retroactive, and if passed, would only apply to new hires within the department.

Joining Mayor Warren for Monday’s announcement was Rochester City Council President Loretta Scott, City Council Vice President Willie Lightfoot, and Rochester Police Chief La’Ron Singletary.

“This proposal is not radical, it’s common sense,” said Rochester City Councilwoman Loretta Scott. “Our officers should live in the city, they should be our neighbors. We should see them walking dogs and mowing lawns, and attending neighborhood association meetings.”

“As cities across the country continue to reimagine policing, our neighbors in Buffalo and Syracuse are asking for the same opportunity to implement residency requirements for their police forces,” said Lightfoot. “This policy change has the potential to make a significant impact our community by enhancing our opportunity to recruit a diverse police force, creating positive economic impacts by keeping money in the City, and making our neighborhoods safer.”

Additionally, Scott said City Council would be asking the city’s human resources department to eliminate existing exemptions which allowed for city employees to live outside of the city.

Mike Mazzeo, President of the Rochester Police Locust club, says union was not approached about the proposal, and says it would hurt the department’s ability to get new recruits. According to Mazzeo, of the nearly 900 applications for the city police test this year, just more than 200 were city residents.

“At a time when recruitment is nearly impossible, retention is just as equally impossible,” Mazzeo said. “To put another requirement that will affect the ability to get people on our street to do the job they’re supposed to do — I don’t know how we’re going to do it quite frankly.”

According to Rochester police officials, 47 of the department’s officers currently live within the city.

Monday’s announced proposal comes after months of both local and national protests against police brutality and calls for police reform following the death of George Floyd who died in police custody. Protests nationwide were sparked again following the shooting of Jacob Blake, in Kenosha, Wisconsin.

Earlier this year, Rochester City Council passed its budget that would include a $3.6 million cut to RPD. The budget also fully funds the Police Accountability Board, cuts the incoming police class by half, and reallocates money from special events to the recreation department.

MORE | City Council members say RPD budget reduction is ‘just the beginning’ of police reform

In June, the New York State Legislature passed two bills to take up police reform measures: requires New York State Police to wear body cameras and repealing section 50-A of the Civil Rights law, which currently shields police personnel records.

In July, City of Rochester officials announced an effort to create an online database of police department disciplinary records in response to repeal of Section 50-a. According to a release, city officials hope to have the database running “as soon as possible, but no later than year-end.”

Full press conference

Check back with News 8 WROC as we will provide updates to this developing story.

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