Mayor Warren introduces new citizen-interview panel for police hiring in Rochester


ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren appointed Rev. Lewis Stewart to lead the new ‘Civilian Public Safety Interview Panel’ in response to Rochester’s rise in violence Thursday.

The panel is expected to be made up of 9 to 12 hand-picked citizens that will interview new-hire candidates for the Rochester Police Department.

Rev. Stewart will begin taking applications for the advisory panel in January.

If selected, members can recommend or not recommend candidates based on a series of interviews that account their community outreach and question their attitude or implicit biases toward residents.

Mayor Warren, who declared a state of emergency Friday due to rising violence in the city, has less than month until she exits from office.

Since the order’s placement, the number of homicides in the city increased by four to 75 from 71 following a deadly weekend of crimes in Rochester — adding to the area’s deadliest year on record.

During Thursday’s announcement of the new initiative, Mayor Warren recalled the recent lives lost.

“My heart really pours out to the families who are suffering from the increase in violence in our community,” Mayor Warren said. “Unfortunately many people in our community don’t seem to know how to settle disputes without picking up a gun. We have to break this cycle, I’m asking the community to join with us to stop the violence.”

“Today, we are taking another important step in improving the level of trust between the police and the community,” Mayor Warren said. I’m pleased to announce we are going to create the civilian public safety interview panel to interview new hired candidates and provide a recommendation to the chief of police.”

The newly-introduced panel was structured in response to the Governor’s Executive Order 203, which requires each local government with a police force in New York State to adopt a policing reform plan.

Rev. Stewart said this panel will be the first of its kind across New York.

“When the governor order was initiated, the United Christian Leadership Ministry team came together and worked on proposals, one of those was to have residents interview police officer applicants,” Rev. Stewart said. “The citizens doing the interview will have undergone training and picked based on their application.”

The community faith leader described the new panel as “authentic ownership of your police department.” He also placed attention to the point of it not being an anti-police plan but a better police plan.

According to Mayor Warren, the panel will have the power to recommend applicants but the chief of police will ultimately make the final decision over hiring that individual.

“The police department has already updated its general orders to update its general conduct when interacting with citizens, but we have to do more,” Warren said. We must create a department that truly protects and serves community because it has the empathy and need to do so. They need to see their challenges not through the lenses of their badge but the lenses of understanding.”

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

Watch the full press conference

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