Note: This Guest Essay appeared in the Saturday, June 25th issue of the Democrat and Chronicle
by Councilmember Molly Clifford
While it may be too early to decide the effectiveness of the Rochester Police Department reorganization, one thing is for sure: Rochester’s level of violence is too high and our neighborhoods do not feel safe.
Nowhere is this felt more keenly than in northwest Rochester.
Since January of this year, the list of shootings in the northwest has included: the on-street gun battle outside the Mexican Village bar; a Sunday afternoon car chase with shots fired on Driving Park Avenue; a man shot in the parking lot of an establishment on West Ridge Road who later died from his injuries; and now, a homicide a few houses away from School 54 on Otis Street.
Signs of the drug trade are everywhere, from corner stores to vacant houses to human trafficking in the heart of our city.
No one should blame the hard-working officers of the RPD for this situation. They are working against the rising tide of societal breakdown and doing the best they can. Four of their own have been victims of violence just this year.
While I am happy that the 2016-17 city budget included funding to fill 19 police officer positions formerly budgeted but not filled, it still included $2 million in police overtime to cover vacancies and administrative reassignments.
With a 10-month training program for new officers, we are now too far behind to increase coverage while keeping up with police retirements, vacations and various reassignments. RPD is left to deal with only the most violent of crimes and struggling to provide the kind of community policing we all want to see more of.
We must start talking about alternatives that will put more personnel on the street without breaking the city’s budget. We could allow an “overhire,” for example, hiring a few additional officers so that we can meet retirement, sick leave and vacation demand without relying on overtime.
We could temporarily reassign officers from administration to patrol during the busy summer months. We could hire more Pathways to Peace outreach workers. These steps would help give our neighborhoods more of the protection our residents expect and deserve.
As a member of the City Council’s Public Safety Committee, I look forward to working with my colleagues in government and our community partners to get ahead of this violence so we do not fall further behind.