ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — It’s been just about a week since Rochester Mayor Malik Evans named the new police chief to the position. In a one-on-one interview with News 8, Chief David Smith talks about leadership, addressing crime, staffing, and some more personal matters.

Chief David Smith is facing several important and urgent challenges — both inside the department and in the community as a whole. He had initially been planning to retire when he reaches his 30-year mark this November but says he felt a dedication to stay.

“Having done this and have been able to implement some changes and see what really is possible with a dedicated team up here I decided that I wanted to stick with it. And I would like to leave the department better off than I found it,” says Chief Smith.

He had been serving as the interim Chief since October 2021. Last year was also a record-breaking one for crime with 81 homicides; a trend on pace to be matched this year.

Prior to that, there was the fallout of the credibility of the department surrounding the in-custody death of Daniel Prude in 2020, which sparked months of protest and unrest in the City, all while the pandemic was unfolding at the same time. He highlighted some changes which had been started by his predecessors he helped to bring to fruition.

“We provide as much information immediately as we can regarding the incident and what happened and that’s key to developing that trust and getting it back. The other part is interaction with the officers in the community. Unfortunately because of the staffing crisis, it makes it very, very hard for me to have officers go out and do foot patrol, bike patrol, do the interactive things we would like when the calls for service are backing up,” says Smith.

The extreme short-staffing levels are another massive undertaking he hopes to make a change for good.

“So the command staff here should be seven people; we’ve been doing it with three to four, depending, we’ve got a lot of folks coming and going, and really no permanency, so I’m excited to get a permanent Command Staff in place and be able to plan and move the department ahead for the future instead of just daily crisis management, which is, in reality, what we’ve been doing,” Smith says.

“I will still hold the training that we do head-and-shoulders above many agencies around the country but as a leader in law enforcement, we’re not there anymore, we’re not the tip of the spear, the cutting edge — so what I see as restoring this department to not only first in New York, but one of the premier mid-sized departments in the nation, both with training, staffing, crime reduction rates, and professionalism,” he adds.

David Smith is technically not the official Chief just yet, while he is still serving the role. He still needs to be confirmed by the Rochester City Council, which he says is slated to take place during the August meeting.