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The Rochester Police Department had a bad year in 2002. Four men died at the hands of police or in police custody – in one summer.

“It actually frightened me,” said former mayor William Johnson.

– Lawrence Rogers died after police restrained him at the Driving Park Wegmans. Rogers had been agitated and fought with police before his arrest. He died after being given a sedative at the hospital.

– Craig Heard was shot by two officers who had him cornered on a dead-end street off Park Ave. Police said the 14-year-old was trying to run them over with a stolen car. His family received a $300,000 settlement. (Their lawyer was current City Hall attorney T. Andrew Brown.)

– Shawn Dukes died in the back of a police van while handcuffed and unattended. He had a heart attack. His family was awarded a $500,000 settlement.

– Willie Carter was shot and killed on East Main Street after he stabbed his wife to death. Police said he was advancing on them with knives.

Why didn’t Rochester erupt with protests, as we are seeing in Ferguson?

“If we hadn’t made a diligent effort to establish community relations in advance, this city would have blown off as well,” said Johnson.

To understand why Rochester remained calm, you have to go back to 1992. That was the year five officers were on federal trial for civil rights violations. The police chief was convicted on embezzlement charges.

“The police dept was in a huge mess,” said Johnson. “When I became mayor it was clear I had to solve this problem.”

Johnson’s first task was to find a new police chief. He went down to North Carolina to interview Robert Warshaw. He also wanted to talk to citizens.

“The black people in town said to me, ‘Do not take our chief,'” said Johnson. “They told me about a case where there was a young black man who engaged in a serious act. He was on top of some building in town. The SWAT team was dispersed. In the past the SWAT team would have killed him. Chief Warshaw personally intervened, went up and talked him down. Finally they had a police chief and department that cared enough about their lives.”

Chief Warshaw and Mayor Johnson at opening of police substation in 1995.

Chief Warshaw and Mayor Johnson at opening of police substation in 1995.

Johnson hired Warshaw. He told Warshaw the culture in the police department had to change. Robert Duffy was his deputy chief. The city started the Neighbors Building Neighborhoods program and Neighborhood Empowerment Teams. Police officers had offices right in neighborhoods to deal with quality of life issues.

“We had police out in the community all the time and created dialogue,” said Johnson.

In 2002, Duffy was chief. After four police-involved deaths of black men in one summer, Johnson and Duffy sprung into action.

“We had to start calling on people that knew the work of the police department to keep things under the control,” said Johnson. “We had a few hotheads. Rev. Raymond Graves did his best to fan the flames. I said, ‘Reverend, I’m here now. Give us some credit.’ I just had to keep leaning on Rev. Graves to not escalate things.”

Johnson said he was under a lot of pressure to take some kind of action against the department, particularly Chief Duffy.

Then-Deputy Chief Robert Duffy talking to a citizen at City Hall in 1995.

Then-Deputy Chief Robert Duffy talking to a citizen at City Hall in 1995.

“If he had any other mayor than me as his boss…I don’t know many other mayors who would not have sacrificed their police chief if they had four black men killed,” Johnson said. “Politically, that was a hard thing for me to swallow. I had to keep saying I have confidence in Bob Duffy and confidence in his administration and mistakes were made. You have to be willing to admit that to people.”

The lesson here is simple.

“People have to believe you are being honest with them and they have to believe based on experience,” said Johnson. “You can’t start that day. You have to have a strong foundation built up.”

Johnson doesn’t see any evidence of that in Ferguson.

“There’s no trust between police and citizen,” he said.

Johnson, who did some work in Sanford after the death of Trayvon Martin, said citizens also play a role. He condemned the “criminal element taking advantage of the situation” by looting. But he said it’s concerning the town is majority black, but elected officials are mostly white.

“This community has to get its act together,” said Johnson. “They can’t keep complaining they are oppressed. They have the means to be engaged.”

All of this could have been avoided, Johnson said.

“What it takes is the awareness you’ve got a problem and the willingness to do something about it.”

 

Links of the Day:

 

– Amnesty International is sending a team to Ferguson, the first time the agency has made a deployment in the U.S.

– The father of the Amish girls feels sorry for their alleged kidnappers.

– Jim Kelly says no thank you to Jon Bon Jovi.

doesn’t pass the smell test.”

– Could Zephyr Teachout hurt Cuomo in the primary?

– One-third of people have nothing saved for retirement.

Nacationing.

– Rochester’s Adrian Jules dresses Jim Boeheim.

 

Tweet of the Day:

 

10 Responses to The Summer of 2002

  1. August 18, 2014 at 12:04 pm dew4794 responds:

    In most institutional conflicts, you will see triangulation systems of leaders. Their attempts to point blame will only “fan the flames” of the conflict and higher authority will be be called on. In Ferguson, the triangulation was between the cop, the chief, the family. Then the family’s lawyer chimed in. Then Obama chimed in. Then the police union chimed in.Then Rev. Sharpton chimed in. Then the Governor of Missouri chimed in.Then the State Troopers chimed in. Then the Fed’s and so forth. Triangulation one after another until the conflict is out of control. In all institution conflict leaders must stop the triangles of conflict and break the ones already in place before the conflict itself can be resolved.

  2. August 18, 2014 at 12:20 pm theodore kumlander responds:

    When Michael Brown put his hands on a police officer he opened the door for a violent response. I have seen up close [but not personal]. what happens when an individual gets aggressive with a police officer. The police in Fullerton over reacted and kept over reacting for days and still are. But when you open that door with a police officer you have to accept the consequences. Michael Brown paid the ultimate price.

  3. August 18, 2014 at 1:19 pm Andrew Zibuck responds:

    What a self-important blowhard Johnson is. To answer the question posed, Rochester did not erupt because none of the 4 killings was quite like Ferguson, and there weren’t eyewitness accounts like those that Theordore Kumlander summarily ignore. They were wrong to shoot Craig Heard, and there were protests over it, but Heard was driving a stolen car toward police. Johnson’s self-congratulations a decade after the fact is no surprise. It’s too bad this blog wasn’t around when he was Mayor.

    • August 18, 2014 at 1:55 pm Rachel Barnhart responds:

      The RPD internal investigation in Heard showed it was not justified. That was a disturbing shooting that people inside the department even questioned.

      Same with Shawn Dukes – handcuffed and left for dead in the back of a hot van.

      And Rogers? Dozens of people witnessed what happened in the store lot.

      I covered these cases. I was there when Graves gave his pressers. Nothing Johnson said wasn’t true. And he and Duffy do deserve credit for keeping the peace.

      • August 18, 2014 at 4:41 pm Andrew Zibuck responds:

        I still don’t think any of the deaths are at the level of the shooting in Ferguson. Another difference — much is being made of the difference in color between Ferguson’s citizens and its elected officials. That wasn’t the case with Johnson and Rochester. Maybe there was an implicit trust that Johnson would handle it rightly? I voted for him twice but I don’t think his legacy is much to brag about. His comments about not firing Duffy? They just rub me the wrong way.

      • November 24, 2014 at 10:41 pm Justin Hilton responds:

        Johnson for the most part was one hell of a Mayor. His last 2 years is when he wasn’t so good. He did the right thing by backing his chief. I remember when ppl were offended because Johnson started with something of the sort “I’m pissed off” our Police Dept is far from perfect but there are some dedicated officers on the force. Ppl that riot are looking to break the law but use the guise of outrage over a verdict. You won’t ever see that when a black guy kills a white cop. Rochester has proven that.

  4. I can’t believe what I just read. Mayor Johnson was a complete failure. Why would anyone listen to anything he has to say. If people want to live with other people, there has to be laws to live by. There needs to be respect for the law. There are people who are paid and trained to enforce the law. There are people hired to monitor the people who are given the power to enforce the laws. These people MUST have integrity and uphold the respect for the law of the police officers. Hiring a friends son or daughter, or the relatives of elected officials does NOT pass the smell test of integrity. Once public service jobs got to be highly compensated with great benefits and tremendous pensions, the really qualified were left out. It now became who you know. It takes a special person to be a GOOD police officer. Same with our elected officials. Just look around. How many are sons, daughters, relatives of other politicians. You need to CARE to be effective. As a citizen, you also have to obey the law. All the incidents you mentioned in this article were ALL people BREAKING the law. So what is the point of my rant…..I don’t really know. Maybe it’s getting tired of people breaking the law, police officers thinking they are God, politicians hiring there unqualified relatives, and journalists selectively choosing their facts to feed their agendas.

  5. August 18, 2014 at 11:33 pm Orielly responds:

    Yes, Bill Johnson was lot more than the fast Ferry. Like his plan for high falls, bringing in non ROCH restaurants, giving them tax breaks, rent breaks, RGE breaks all to compete with private-non city funded, tax paying local private business owners like in the EAST END. You know the EAST END the STAR area of the CITY TODAY, that had to OVERCOME Johnson’s dealings and the competition he brought in to compete with them.. they had to beat the Johnson plan, to be successful.

    And THERE is a lot more than a Ferry and Johnson. Johnson signed secret side letters committing Roch to pay for dockage rights in Toronto at over 250K a year for decades as I recall. That was highly illegal and he should have been arrested for it.

    And what did he do for CITY Schools? Yea he’s a lot more than the high Falls and nothing really good as here he is again trying to rewrite history.

    Yes the press loves to forget and have amnesia when you talk about past DEM shameful leaders, Johnson sounds just like Clinton rewriting history about what occurred during their administrations.

    You remember Clinton who lied to a grand jury,lost his law license, cheated on his wife with a WH intern, did nothing to respond to 4 terrorist attacks, neglected to go after Osama Bin Laden when offered.

    Today Clinton is a hero. Paid exorbitant fees to speak at places like RIT and the UR, when he should be shunned and disgraced like Nixon was. And many women to this day…love him. Simply Amazing.

    And to think the Clintons were “broke” when they left office. What a couple they are to admire.

  6. August 18, 2014 at 11:41 pm Orielly responds:

    Yes, Bill Johnson was lot more than the fast Ferry. Like his plan for high falls, bringing in non ROCH restaurants, giving them tax breaks, rent breaks, RGE breaks all to compete with private-non city funded, tax paying local private business owners like in the EAST END. You know the EAST END the STAR area of the CITY TODAY, that had to OVERCOME Johnson’s dealings and the competition he brought in to compete with them.. they had to beat the Johnson plan, to be successful. The city lost more than 150M on the high falls today they are trying to sell off.

    And THERE is a lot more than a Ferry and Johnson. Johnson signed secret side letters committing Roch to pay for dockage rights in Toronto at over 250K a year for decades as I recall. That was highly illegal and he should have been arrested for it.

    And what did he do for CITY Schools? Yea he’s a lot more than the high Falls and nothing really good as here he is again trying to rewrite history.

    Yes the press loves to forget and have amnesia when you talk about past DEM shameful leaders, Johnson sounds just like Clinton rewriting history about what occurred during their administrations.

    You remember Clinton who lied to a grand jury,lost his law license, cheated on his wife with a WH intern, did nothing to respond to 4 terrorist attacks, neglected to go after Osama Bin Laden when offered.

    Today Clinton is a hero. Paid exorbitant fees to speak at places like RIT and the UR, when he should be shunned and disgraced like Nixon was. And many women to this day…love him. Simply Amazing.

    And to think the Clintons were “broke” when they left office. What a couple they are to admire.

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