‘Overhaul’ of hiring system, resizing RPD, officer wellness, among 10-point police reform plan

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ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren and other local officials presented the draft of the mandated police reform to the governor’s office on Thursday.

As part of the 2021 state agenda Gov. Andrew Cuomo is requiring communities to come up with a plan to reimagine policing.

The agenda reads, “Localities are required to engage their community and ratify a plan by April 1, 2021. Failure to complete this process will result in loss of State funding.”

MORE | Public safety reform: Governor Cuomo’s requirement from police stations for state funding in 2021

“Last year, exposed the tensions between the community and the police more starkly than ever before,” Gov. Cuomo said in his State of the State Address earlier this year. “This is a national crisis. Feelings are deep and complex; emotions run high on both sides.”

According to the mayor’s office, the proposal spans 10 different areas for improvement and include:

Accountability: Petition the State of New York to amend the Taylor Law and the Triborough Agreement to allow the City to terminate RPD personnel immediately for cause and enable the City to develop a completely new collective bargaining agreement.

Community Engagement and Programming: Advocate for more resources and financial support for programs such as mental health programs; youth and recreation programs; job development; Pathways to Peace; conflict resolution programs; Rise Up Rochester; ROC the Peace; United Christian Leadership Ministry (UCLM) Light the Way; Save Our Youth; Squash the Beef; and other evidence-based programs that include oversight, evaluation, transparency and training so that programs that are effective can be expanded and improved.

Data, Technology and Transparency: Expand the RPD Open Data Portal and Data Sharing with information on police-citizen interaction types, demographics (i.e. age, gender, race) of people involved, type of response and whether force was used, along with all other data that will allow Rochesterians to better understand the nature of police response.

Fostering a Community-Oriented Culture: Fund policies and practices that begin to inoculate the RPD from systemic oppression. These practices should include: educating officers using immersive training methods that teach how systemic racism and other forms of structural oppression, as opposed to mere “bias” or “prejudice,” can influence policing practices; reinforcing this training throughout officers’ careers; testing officers on their knowledge and providing assistance as necessary; and, creating and enforcing disciplinary rules that combat racism, misogyny and homophobia.

Officer Wellness: Consider appointing a Chief Resiliency Officer, similar to the program started by New Jersey Attorney General Grewal. The Chief Resiliency Officer is responsible for ensuring the implementation of the New Jersey Resiliency Program for Law Enforcement. This statewide program aims to help officers “to become better equipped to handle the daily stress of police work that, when left unchecked, may lead to physical ailments, depression and burnout.”

Police Policy, Strategies and Practices: Develop a policy limiting the use of spit socks or hoods and outlining strict guidelines for appropriate and safe use of spit socks if and when they are used.

RPD Recruitment: Overhaul the Civil Service hiring system. The City of Rochester is requesting a complete overhaul of the N.Y. State Civil Service hiring and promotion system. It is evident, and research shows that this practice has been, and continues to be, biased toward communities of color. The City believes that the deciding factor of whether someone would be a good officer or manager should not be based on how well someone scores on a written Civil Service exam. The state should immediately convene a Civil Service Commission to review and change the process for governmental hiring and promotions. 

Resizing the RPD: Aim to reduce RPD personnel within the next 5-10 years so it can reallocate these resources to other programs.

Response to Mental Health Calls: Support passage of Daniel’s Law and increase funding for first responder systems that appropriately replace police with social workers, mental health providers and other non-police personnel.

Training: Advocate for a change in N.Y. State law to require the State’s Division of Criminal Justice Services (DCJS) to mandate explicit and implicit bias, systemic racism, cultural competency and procedural justice training in the Basic Course for their Police Officer certification program. Mandate that this training be continued through required routine in-service courses. Advocate for funding for this additional mandated training.

Watch the mayor’s full presentation:

City Council Vice President Willie J. Lightfoot and Councilmember Miguel Melendez, representatives of the Police Accountability Board and other community partners were involved in the creation of the draft.

A statement to News 8 from Rochester’s Police Accountability Board Executive Director Conor Dwyer Reynolds Thursday:

In October, the Mayor created the Working Group on Police Reform to help her create a plan for reforming policing in Rochester. The Mayor asked the PAB to participate in that Working Group, and we agreed to do so. We were asked to submit factual findings and recommendations that could go into a reform plan that would be released to the public. The PAB worked diligently to craft these findings and recommendations, conducting historical research and extensive community engagement to do so. We submitted a comprehensive set of recommendations that included concrete deadlines for implementation and clear commitments for the City to drastically boost funding for systems where mental health professionals are first responders to crises. The PAB is appreciative of the thorough, transparent work United Christian Leadership Ministry (another participant in the Working Group) put into its own recommendations.

We pushed for the reform plan to include our recommendations and other recommendations that looked for fundamental change, rather than piecemeal reform. We will find out tonight if our push succeeded.

The PAB stands fully behind our recommendations. Our participation in the Working Group is not an endorsement of the plan the City is releasing tonight, in part because we have not seen the final draft of the plan. We encourage City residents to carefully examine the City’s reform plan to see if it will actually work to fundamentally rewrite Rochester’s public safety blueprint.”

The draft will be presented at 7 p.m.

Executive Order No. 203

EO_203 by News 8 WROC on Scribd

Check back with News 8 WROC as we continued to update this developing story.

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