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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.)





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.


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


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.


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.

Black on black crime is an “epidemic” that doesn’t get enough attention, according to an important report in the Wall Street Journal (behind a paywall):

Their deaths are overshadowed by tragedies like the massacres at the Aurora, Colo., movie theater and the Sikh temple in Wisconsin, as well as the killing of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin in Sanford, Fla. The latter case prompted nationwide outcry in part because of its racial aspect: Mr. Martin’s killer is white and Hispanic, and Mr. Martin was black.


The Wall Street Journal found that the number of black male victims increased more than 10%, to 5,942 in 2010 from 5,307 in 2000.

Overall, more than half the nation’s homicide victims are African-American, though blacks make up only 13% of the population. Of those black murder victims, 85% were men, mostly young men.


People who dismiss high homicide rates in poor, mostly black neighborhoods as someone else’s problem ignore the cost to society, from police efforts to social services for victims’ families, said Chuck Wexler of the Police Executive Research Forum, a Washington, D.C., think tank that conducts research on criminal justice initiatives. His group calculated the national cost for gun homicides alone in 2010 was more than $43 billion. That encompasses victim costs like lost productivity and medical care, as well as costs for police, prosecution, courts and prison. It also includes costs to the offender’s family.

A 2009 study by Iowa State analyzing other data estimated that a single murder runs up more than $17 million in costs to the police, courts, prisons, social services and to the families of victims and suspects.

This is not surprising in Rochester, where most homicide victims and suspects are far more likely to be young black men. The Wall Street Journal report found that programs providing employment and regular contact with clergy and police were effective. I was a disappointed the story didn’t address the impact of the illegal drug trade, which is directly and indirectly responsible for violence and street culture.

Rochester’s police chief recently recorded a video, which is similar to an op-ed he wrote, about black-on-black crime:

Links of the Day:

– Could Apple and Google be holding the price down on Kodak’s patents?

Craft beers can help local economies. 

– Generation Y can be extremely annoying in the workplace. Maybe that’s a good thing.

– A lost Albany cockatiel found its way home after landing on a state trooper’s head.

– New York state’s new concussion law doesn’t apply to little leagues.

– The best story of the day is about Senator Chuck Schumer’s matchmaking skills among his staff. 

The City of Rochester produced a video about Operation Cool Down, calling it a “softer gentler way” of policing.

It shows a police officer handing out posters to businesses that say “Take Back Your City.” The video talks about the need for better police-community relationships. Cool Down was prompted after an 82 percent rise in shootings this year.

In the video, Chief Jim Sheppard said this is not a “Zero Tolerance” initiative, when the city saturated neighborhoods with officers, prompting complaints citizens were hassled over minor offenses. But that runs contrary to what the chief told reporters the day he launched Cool Down.

Although the Cool Down video is clearly labeled a City Hall production, it was produced like a news story. There’s no danger of a local news station airing this report, as happened with a federal video news release scandal. But the practice makes me a little uncomfortable. Should our tax dollars be paying the city to produce news-like videos or should this be seen a mere press release?

After covering this initiative, I still cannot define the Cool Down program. It appears to be what should be regular policing. After the watching the video, it also looks like a big heap of public relations.

Links of the Day:

Apple and Google are lining up to bid on Kodak’s patents. Bids are due on Monday.

A Democrat and Chronicle columnist was prepared to do a sweet story on a whimsical yard filled with merry-go-round-horses and birdhouses. Instead she found neighbors calling it a “hot mess.”

– Carl Paladino and the Buffalo Sabres have each submitted proposals for downtown waterfront redevelopment. Buffalo is so much farther along than Rochester in making the most of its canal and lakefront.

– A $500 million dollar hotel development is planned in Niagara Falls…Canada.

Rochester’s police chief penned an editorial in the Democrat and Chronicle asking the community to “own” the violence problem. James Sheppard questioned why 2,000 Rochesterians marched for Trayvon Martin, but a similar sense of outrage is not on display with black on black crime:

…our greatest challenge is that some people in this city see law enforcement as the only ones who “own” the violence problem.


The majority of our homicide victims are young black men, shot to death in black neighborhoods.


When homicides involve black-on-black violence, it seems no one cares enough to get involved, except the family members and the police.


…2,000 people marched in downtown Rochester to protest (Trayvon Martin’s) death. While in our city numerous young black males are shot without a peep of concern or indignation

Public safety is not a spectator sport…

The Buffalo News recently did a great article on the terrible toll of the “don’t snitch” mentality. Some people genuinely distrust police and are so steeped in street culture, they won’t tell police what they know about homicides. But other people are reasonably scared of retribution.

I’m not so sure it’s fair to indict an entire community for a perceived lack of outrage. Plenty of people are angry and we’ve seen countless marches and rallies for peace. People want their corners cleared of drug dealers and troublemakers. But there’s no easy fix to the problems of guns, drugs and poverty that breeds violence.

Links of the Day:

– Onondaga County has the highest rate in the state of babies born addicted to painkillers. It’s more than double Monroe County’s rate.

Mitt Romney is a hot topic at the Hill Cumorah pageant.

– After the deadly Colgan Air crash outside Buffalo a few years ago, regional low-cost airline Pinnacle came under heavy fire. Now there are even cheaper airlines putting Pinnacle out of business. Those airlines raise similar safety issues.

– “Let them eat concession-stand pizza.” A Buffalo News columnist eviscerates the Bills for their blackout decision.

– The fate of the Western New York Flash is still uncertain. Professional women’s soccer will likely continue to struggle, even if the U.S. women win the gold in London.

Video surveillance cameras are the municipal equivalent to the latest Apple product: Everyone wants them and there’s a mad rush to get them.

-Tampa Bay Times, 4/29/12

Fueled by Homeland Security grants and a (false?) sense of security, cities have installed surveillance cameras at a furious pace.

We’re now learning these systems cost a lot of money to maintain. Meanwhile, the jury is still out on their effectiveness in preventing and solving crime.

Brian Sharp of the Democrat and Chronicle revealed that at any given time, up to 25 percent of the city’s surveillance cameras are not working. Those cameras need everything from major repairs to snow dusted off. Police officers are dispatched to do the work. A colleague told me that’s like the “mayor changing light bulbs.” Now the city is looking into contracting for the repairs.

Rochester has installed 108 neighborhood cameras since 2008. The city is halting the planned purchase of a few dozen more. A dozen other cameras sit uninstalled. The mayor wants to get a handle on the program before going further.

At the same time the city is confronting the costs associated with the cameras, it’s working with a Rochester Institute of Technology graduate student who’s writing a thesis on their effectiveness. How many arrests are attributable to the cameras? How many crimes have been solved? Is there a street that was plagued with crime before the cameras that is now safer? Did the crime shift elsewhere? Are we using this technology to its maximum capability? Is the staffing of the surveillance room appropriate?

A cost benefit analysis is important. Look at ShotSpotter. City reports of 3,306 activations, only 50 crime reports were taken leading to six arrests. One Florida community dismantled the system, seeing few results.

It’s outrageous there wasn’t a comprehensive plan when Mayor Bob Duffy’s administration spent hundreds of thousands of dollars and rushed headlong into the camera system. Rochester is by no means alone. Philadelphia is experiencing the same issues.

Within the next year or so, data will come out about the effectiveness of Rochester’s red light cameras. Are they actually reducing crashes? So far, the number of tickets given at each monitored intersection has remained steady, indicating people aren’t changing their behavior.

Technology is great. But it has limits – and great cost.

Links of the Day:

– The Rochester Police Department wants to hire a consultant to train supervisors in “policing in the spirit of service.”

That’s the motto of Chief James Sheppard. He wants police officers to have a customer-service mindset. Don’t write punitive tickets or make punitive arrests. Work with the public and make citizens your friends. Don’t have an adversarial relationship. This is from the city website:

It is important to acknowledge that every interaction with the community has an impact not only on each individual employee’s reputation, but on the reputation of the entire Rochester Police Department as well.

The department’s citizen cell phone app to report crimes (and police misconduct) is one example.

The city put out a request for proposals. The cost of this training is not indicated. I can’t imagine the police union is happy with the idea of training officers in how to be nice.

Update: The union is not happy at all. Check out the letters the president wrote regarding the iniative.

– Eric Smith is up for parole today. He’s 32 years old and has served 19 years in prison for killing a 4-year-old boy in 1993.

– You know who hates when gas prices go up? Gas stations.

– Wegmans says 40 percent is the magic number. After a successful pilot in Rochester, the chain is rolling out 40 percent recycled plastic bags to all of its stores.

Judges need to get a grip.

Standing in the draining pool water running down the street, a helicopter hovering overheard, a feeling of dread set in. Hearts sank as a growing number of officers circled the pool. The Medical Examiner’s arrival was confirmation of an outcome no one wanted.

Larie Butler’s death touched so many people.

A typical teenager’s disappearance, a mother’s agony, a police department’s alarm and a desperate search united the community in compassion.

There were those ready to pounce if the police and media didn’t give Larie’s case attention. While “missing white girl syndrome” is well-documented, bias was never in play in this sad story. We now know police had evidence from the start leading them to believe Larie had been killed. We now know why police didn’t initially want her family to speak publicly, for fear of jeopardizing their search for the suspect and her remains.

More than a dozen investigators were working around the clock. They got to know Larie’s family. Finding her body was something they will never forget. “She looked like an angel,” a police officer said.

We won’t soon forget the anguish of Larie’s mother. Whose heart didn’t break when she thanked police and the community and questioned her own trust of a family friend?

The magnitude of this crime hasn’t set in. There are never answers to explain why. It’s a horrifying, sad story that touched us all.

Links of the Day:

– It’s possible Mayor Tom Richards is trying to scare everyone by suggesting we close the soccer stadium, ax the mounted patrol, close libraries, cut firefighters and forego parking garage maintenance.

He admitted as much. The Democrat and Chronicle reports:

Shuttering the soccer stadium would save the city $415,700 — something Richards points to as an eventuality if the city doesn’t fix its structural budget problems. Garage maintenance costs the city $1.5 million a year. But would Richards really think of not doing it? “I put it on there just to make a point,” he said, “and hope people will look at it and think, (cutting) that is a dumb thing to do.’”

The mayor will present a bunch of options to the public on how to close a $25 million budget gap. As he did last year, he will ask residents to tell him what’s on and off the table. His strategy gives the public input and makes people take the budget very seriously. While the budget gap is a problem, somehow our mayors manage to solve it every year without huge pain.

The police chief told me last year he valued the mounted the patrol in a report I did on the unit. Police agencies across the country were cutting their mounted units, but not Rochester. I guess times have changed.

The soccer stadium is a rather shocking suggestion. The city and state have millions of dollars invested in the facility. It’s home to the Rhinos and Flash and a number of other activities. While it requires a subsidy, so do other assets. The costs of shutting it down may be more than keeping it open. A giant empty stadium in an already-struggling neighborhood would have consequences.

– Maggie Brooks says it’s too early to talk about her positions on issues. Really?

– I am a fan of playing Beethoven to disperse teen loiterers. This is a hysterical look at weird anti-loitering technologies, including harsh lights that expose acne.

– Why doesn’t Rochester debate tax breaks for developers to this extent?

Links of the Day:

– Last winter, more than 200 cars were stolen in Rochester from drivers who left their cars running with the keys inside. People run into stores or daycares and come outside shocked to find their cars gone.

Rochester police have been trying to educate the public about this issue for a very long time. Leaving your car running can result in a $130 ticket. I’ve heard of drivers who have gotten their cars stolen and were shocked when the responding officers wrote them a ticket.

Now police have a good example of what can go wrong in addition to a theft. Last night, a man who stopped at a convenience store on West Main Street came outside to find his car – with his sleeping 6-year-old son in the backseat – stolen. The boy was found unharmed.

Some people have asked why the man wasn’t charged with endangering the welfare of a child. That seems extreme for a quick dash into the store, something that is clearly a common practice. But I wouldn’t be surprised if the dad got that $130 ticket.

– I’m not the only one who thinks politicians gushing over the Niagara Falls tightrope walk is in poor taste.

– We’ve seen big cuts announced in the Fairport Central School District. Get ready for other school districts – once thought untouchable – to announce similar measures.

– It’s the longest kidney donation chain ever, with 30 donations for 30 recipients.

– An Eastman School of Music violinist, turning 90, bids farewell.

– This might be the best obituary ever, about the colorful life of the man who rowed across the Pacific and Atlantic oceans.

It’s become fairly common in the United States for police officers to patrol school hallways.

A critical report in The Guardian asks why our country is criminalizing normal childhood behavior:

In 2010, the police gave close to 300,000 “Class C misdemeanour” tickets to children as young as six in Texas for offences in and out of school, which result in fines, community service and even prison time. What was once handled with a telling-off by the teacher or a call to parents can now result in arrest and a record that may cost a young person a place in college or a job years later.

In Rochester, parents, school board members and city council members have complained about the volume of student arrests. One solution – that no one ever brings up – is to simply not have officers in schools. An officer is required to uphold the law when he’s on duty. If he is expected to check his badge at the door, perhaps another adult is best-suited to enforcing discipline. It could be inappropriate and unethical for school officials to tell officers when they can and cannot make arrests in their buildings.

I’d love to see a comprehensive study on the impact of officers in schools. What are the costs and benefits? Do officers maintain their independence? Do schools with officers have a lower incidence of violence and other crime? What is the student arrest rate at schools with and without officers? What kinds of relationships do officers forge with students?

Since Columbine and the implementation of “zero tolerance” policies, few people have questioned the presence of school officers. I’m sure they do a lot of good and help many staff members and students. But that doesn’t mean they’re a good fit in a school system. I want to learn more.

I interviewed Rochester Police Chief Jim Sheppard today about officers and firefighters getting scammed by a Tennessee photography company. Members of local law enforcement agencies sat for portraits in 2010 that never arrived. Some people spent $100 or more on packages. The chief himself was among the victims.

The story raised questions about the judgment of local police and fire chiefs. It’s a little strange that an out-of-town company was hired for the work. It’s also weird anyone would try to scam cops.

After the interview, I asked the chief about safety outside MCC’s downtown campus at the Sibley Building on East Main Street. In a blow to downtown’s image, MCC opted to move to Kodak, citing safety concerns.

“Downtown is the safest part of the city,” Sheppard said. He said the department has done a lot to improve safety on Main Street. There are now officers assigned downtown and buses for high school students have been rerouted away from Main Street.

Ironically, less than an hour after I left, a 20-year-old man was stabbed right outside the doors of MCC’s Main Street entrance. The victim does not appear to be a student.

The stabbing happened right as MCC is trying to prove its case about the area’s safety. These incidents might be isolated, but they get publicity and make the city’s job of selling downtown much harder.