The Rochester chief of police now has the authority, under an emergency order, to close a commercial building that has been a site of a shooting in the last 30 days and has violated city laws.
Issued by Mayor Lovely Warren, the order empowers Chief David Smith to close a property whose nuisance points total 12 in the past six-month period or 18 nuisance points over the last 12 months. The order will remain in effect through Dec.12.
“Protecting our residents and the safety of our neighborhoods remains my top priority. This order empowers Chief David M. Smith to close any business where there has been a shooting and it’s operating in a manner that has consistently violated our local laws,” Warren said. “I don’t take this action lightly. However, Chief Smith has asked for this ability to ensure that he and our police officers can do all they can to keep our city safe. My hope is that this action, along with our continued, combined efforts to take violent criminals off our streets, will strengthen Rochester’s safety.”
Last week, Warren declared a state of emergency in the city to remove violent offenders from neighborhoods. Today’s order and the one on Nov. 12 need to be renewed after 30 days.
At a news conference Thursday with Rev. Lewis Stewart, president of United Leadership Christian Ministry, Warren also took a step toward improving and restoring the trust between the police and the community with the creation of a Civilian Public Safety Interview Panel. New Rochester Police Department hires will be interviewed by this panel, which will then offer recommendations to the police chief, who will have the final say.
The panel will ask questions on candidates’ attitudes toward policing, community involvement and implicit biases to determine if they can serve with ethics, integrity and nondiscriminatory methods and nonracist attitudes and behaviors, Warren said. Applications will be sought in January. (Warren leaves office on Dec. 1. Deputy Mayor James Smith will serve in the role until Mayor-elect Malik Evans is sworn in.)
Stewart will serve on a three-person committee to appoint the members of the interview panel. The committee will review the panel’s applications with the RPD and the Department of Human Resources. Selected members will undergo training before the panel can begin its work.
“We must create a department that truly protects, serves our community because it has the empathy and perspective to do so,” Warren said. “Every officer has to be connected to the residents that they serve and see their challenges not through the lens of the badge but through understanding. The Civilian Public Safety Interview Panel will go a long way toward helping us with that.”
Stewart, who signed a memorandum with Warren today, worked with UCLM on several proposals when former Gov. Andrew Cuomo issued Executive Order 203, calling for police reform. One of those ideas was an interview panel.
“It gives people authentic ownership in their police department,” Stewart said. “It supports good cops and good policing. It is not—it is not, I repeat—an anti-policing effort but it’s to make policing better.”
Smriti Jacob is Rochester Beacon managing editor.