Police SirenThe protests against police in Ferguson, Missouri have many communities discussing the makeup of their police departments. Only 11 percent of Ferguson’s officers are black, compared to two-thirds of city residents.

    The Rochester Police Department strives to reflect the community it serves. The department has been trying hard to improve diversity in its ranks. Seventy-five percent of the city’s 732 officers are white, compared to 44 percent of the city’s population.

    But very few Rochester police officers live in the city. The city reports only 7 percent of police and firefighters live within city limits. Another report puts the figure at 10 percent for Rochester officers, with minority officers more likely to live in the city. The city is not legally allowed to impose residency requirements for uniformed personnel, though one is in place for other workers. Rochester does offer incentives for workers, including police, who purchase homes in the city.

    In most cities, cops don’t live in the communities they patrol. Does this matter?

    Supporters of police officers living in the city say it would make them more invested. They would know their neighbors. They would be good neighbors. Crime may fall on their streets. They would contribute to stability  and improve the housing stock.

    But police officers clearly don’t want to live in the city. Studies of other cities show incentive programs get limited use. Police officers don’t want to live in high-crime areas. They don’t want to send their kids to sub-par schools. They don’t want to run into people they arrested. They don’t want to be “on-call” after they’re done with work for the day.

    In the absence of residency requirements, it looks like achieving racial diversity in police departments is far more realistic.

     

    Links of the Day:

     

    - Forbes values the Buffalo Bills at $935 million, second to last in league.

    - Will Cuomo debate Teachout? Not looking like it.

    - Most Americans want to criminalize preteens playing outdoors unsupervised. We’ve lost our minds.

    - Teen says he was suspended and detained for joking about killing a pet dinosaur. We’ve really lost our minds.

    - The New York State Fair has interesting food items, such as the chicken, bacon, ranch donut sandwich.

    - Check out the New York State Fair butter sculpture.

    Crime Scene TapeRochester has a particularly violent month. Eight people have been killed since August 3. Homicides are shocking and devastating and the most high profile measurement of crime in a community.

    Sometimes, it’s helpful to look at historical trends in violent crime to put recent violence in perspective. Here is data from the FBI. The first chart is the number of violent crimes. Note the worst years for homicide came in the early ’90s. The best year was 1999. (So far in 2013, 27 people have been killed. In 2012, 36 people were killed.)

     

    murdernumber

     

     

    This chart looks at the the number of crimes per capita – the violent crime rate:

     

    murder rate

     

    The data will mean different things to different people. Some will say it’s proof the city is a violent place. Others will say crime no worse today than it was 20 years ago – in fact it’s better.

     

    Links of the Day:

    - The NSA gets around encryption on websites many of us thought were secure. This is unbelievable.

    - “The U.S. government has betrayed the Internet.”

    - Cuomo wants to get tough on failing schools, but never mentions deconcentrating poverty in schools.

    - Albany motels house the working poor.

    - I interviewed a University of Rochester astrophysicist about why people like to deny science.

    Credit: City of Rochester

    Credit: City of Rochester

    City residents who attended the mayor’s Voice of the Citizen budget forums said the Rochester Police Department’s Mounted Patrol unit should be put out to pasture. The city faces a budget gap of $28 million.

    Here are some of the comments:

    “Eliminate Mounted Patrol—what value do they provide?” (NE)

    “Cut or reduce Mounted Patrol.” (SE)

    “Eliminate Mounted Patrol or reallocate those resources to patrol positions.” (NW)

    “Businesses should pay the cost of Mounted Patrol if used as special events.” (SW)

    “Is it possible to share services with the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office? They have Mounted Patrol, K-9, SCUBA, and Tactical.” (online)

    “Mounted patrol is a luxury. RPD has too many people in non patrol roles.” (online)

    The unit consists of seven horses who live in the Verona Street Animal Shelter stable and seven officers. The biggest cost of the unit is those seven officers, who take care of the horses every day. There are other costs associated with veterinary care, shoeing, food and equipment. The major benefit of getting rid of the Mounted Patrol, which many departments across the country have done, is putting those officers on routine details.

    But the Mounted Patrol has fierce defenders. The “10-foot policeman” is excellent in scanning crowds and breaking up unruly crowds. The horses also do a tremendous job fostering good will between police and citizens.

    Is the Mounted Patrol something that’s “nice to have,” but we can’t afford anymore? Or is it something very useful?

    There’s at least one person in power who wants to keep the unit. The police chief just put out an RFP for farrier services.

    Links of the Day:

     

    - The former Bausch beachfront estate in Irondequoit is for sale for just under $1 million.

    - The Yahoo offices in Niagara County are getting hefty tax breaks. Residents cry foul.

    - The use of paid confidential police informants is under scrutiny after charges were dropped against an Albany area store owner.

    - SUNY Albany has a problem with students buying and selling assignments.

    - It may be 2013, but a Georgia school district is holding its very first integrated prom.

    Sibley 220X165A divided City Council approved a lease for a police substation inside the Sibley Building. The 10-year lease will cost nearly $1 million. The city will also spend about $200,000 furnishing the space. Forty officers – not a small number – will staff the station.

    Less than 10 years ago, downtown had a police station. It was shuttered when the department, led by former Police Chief Bob Duffy, reorganized into east and west sections. I don’t know what the department was paying for its old substation lease, but I’m guessing the one in the Sibley Building is more money. Certainly acquiring the furniture is an added cost.

    The Sibley substation is a recognition downtown has its own policing needs. It’s a unique mix of visitors, commuters, transit riders, entertainment, residents, businesses and government. Even though downtown is among the safest places in the city, it’s important for people to feel safe, as it’s the center of the city. It’s the symbol of Rochester.

    The Sibley substation is also the beginning of the recognition the two-section policing model hasn’t worked out. The chief has said he wants to move toward a quadrant system, with a downtown section in the middle. It won’t be cheap, as the Sibley lease shows.

    Links of the Day:

    - Avon is now the third New York State town to have its fracking ban upheld in court.

    - A retired Pittsford teacher urges parents to opt out of state tests.

    - A man jailed 22 years in a New York City rabbi’s killing is about to be freed. His conviction was the result  of liars and shoddy police work.

    - Does phasing in the minimum wage really help workers? The Albany Times Union writes, “A deal among state leaders would force workers to wait until 2016 for a wage that isn’t particularly adequate in 2013.”

    - With no assault weapons ban on the horizon, what does the president say to Newtown families now?

    RPDCity residents could get a call in the coming weeks asking about police services.

    The Rochester Police Department issued a Request for Proposals seeking a company to perform a survey of residents to “measure opinion of our public safety resources.” The company will work with the department on developing questions and identifying areas of concern.

    The survey comes after the mayor and police chief held several forums with the public about violence.

    I bet this survey will be used in part to support going back to a quadrant policing model. Chief Jim Sheppard has said he’d like to do away with the two-sections and have four sections, as well as a downtown policing district.

    What do you think the department should ask in this survey and do with the results?

    Links of the Day:

    - Rochester may finally have found a way to get rid of the Cadillac Hotel. It plans to stop putting homeless people up at the Chestnut Street hotel and instead put them in places that offer services. City officials say this has nothing to do with Midtown’s revival. Riiiight….

    - Syracuse University’s debt more than doubled under Chancellor Nancy Cantor.

    - Columbia students are hoarding Nutella, costing the college $5,000 a week.

    - New York City’s sugary drink ban could affect fancy coffees.

    - States with more gun laws have less gun violence.

    - Lyell Ave.’s singing barber.

    Crime Graph

     

     

    The Rochester Police Department chart above shows the number of violent crimes per 100,000 residents going back to 1985. These include murder, rape, robbery and assault.

    The early 1990s were the high point for violence. This was true across the country. Scholars have attributed lower crime since then to crack’s decline, more young men in prison, more police on the streets, legalized abortion and even less lead paint.

    There’s no question Rochester continues to have issues with crime, particularly in certain neighborhoods. But it’s not worse than ever, thus the chart’s title “Perception v. Reality.”

    Correction: Part I crimes also included burglary, larceny, arson and car thefts. This doesn’t change the premise that the community is safer.

    Links of the Day:

    - The state wants to make it much harder to plea down speeding ticketsand you’d still have to pay.

    - Scotch & Sirloin has closed.

    - This is so cute. Little libraries are popping up in Buffalo.

    - This is what a lake effect storm looks like.

    - If cities had fewer cars, would more money stay in the local economy?

     

    RPDLess than a decade after dramatically reorganizing the Rochester Police Department, another overhaul may in the works.

    In 2004, the city went from seven police patrol divisions to two. The East and West division model gave the department the flexibility to deploy officers where they are needed most. Officers were assigned car beats, but many took calls in a wider area during their shifts. The city has maintained the model saved millions of dollars through more efficient staffing and less building space.

    Residents felt they lost their connection with police officers, who were patrolling a much wider area of the city.

    The Democrat and Chronicle reports the city may go to a quadrant system:

    The next big change?

    Perhaps restructuring the department from its current East/West division into quadrants, with the downtown detail as the “doughnut hole,” Sheppard said.

    (Councilman Adam) McFadden and (police union president Mike) Mazzeo, typically on opposite sides of crime-related issues, would welcome that change, and want Sheppard and Richards to restore the seven-section model the City Council chose to eliminate in 2004.

    Critics of the 2004 move perennially push to restore the sections.

    McFadden and Mazzeo say the current East/West model inhibits relations with the community, and fosters a lower morale among officers who do not feel a connection with the neighborhoods.

    “We have lost a lot of the valuable relationships we had under the old system, people feel as if they’ve lost support and lost contact with the officers,” McFadden said.

    The Center for Governmental Research helped the city design the reorganization. It looks like CGR last analyzed the results in 2005. Perhaps it should be engaged to take another look at how the reorganization went. Such an analysis could look at crime, response times, overtime, management and community input.

    Links of the Day:

    - The Syracuse Post-Standard slammed patronage in Onondaga County government.

    - The state assembly will vote on a bill barring welfare recipients from withdrawing cash at bars and strip clubs. 

    - SUNY spent $300,000 for a conference on “systemness.” The cocktail party alone exceeded $30,000.

    - An op-ed in the New York Times urges the Catholic church to place saving schools above all else.

    - When you’re an atheist in a tragedy, you don’t have to ask why God allows such awful things to happen.

    The city is moving forward with an overhaul of the Civilian Review Board, which deals with allegations of police misconduct.

    The CRB was created in 1992 as a way for residents to lodge complaints against police officers. The program is run by the Center for Dispute Settlement. The city put out a Request for Proposals seeking a new operator for 2013.

    A report I did for 13WHAM last year explains the process – and the problems:

    There are about 20 trained mediators who are randomly assigned to 3-person panels to review cases. All of the mediators go on ride-a-longs with police every year and get training.

    Here’s how the process works:

    •  The Rochester Police Department’s Professional Standards Sections investigates the complaint.
    • The findings are forwarded to the Civilian Review Board.
    • The board decides if findings are sustained, unproven, unfounded, or if the officer should be exonerated.
    • The police chief makes a final determination.

    (snip)

    The police chief and board agreed on 85 percent of cases.

    (snip)

    The complainant gets a letter stating the outcome of the case. The findings are rarely made public, however. Civil service law prohibits publication of officers’ personnel files.

    (snip)

    Councilman Adam McFadden said the findings can be confusing for citizens who make complaints. He also said the review process can take a long time. The average complaint takes 210 days.

    The new process will have some changes. The biggest is the creation of a community advocate who will assist complainants and serve as a watchdog. The goal of the overhaul is to make the public more aware of the CRB, speed up complaint resolution and involve City Council where needed.

    “I think it’s better than what we have,” said Councilman Adam McFadden. “It’s not 100 percent what I would like to see, but it’s a vast improvement.”

    Twenty years later, the city is still trying to get it right.

    Links of the Day:

    - A Queens nursing home is under investigation for how it treated patients during Hurricane Sandy. Loved ones still can’t find where family members placed.

    - “It’s like FEMA for Jews.” New Yorkers helped each other out during Hurricane Sandy, in ways that bring laughter and tears.

    - The military has done a terrible job keeping combat records, meaning returning veterans can have a hard time getting approved for disability.

    - The electoral map if women couldn’t vote.

    - So much for free speech at SUNY Oswego.