Evans names Smith as Rochester’s police chief

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After a national search, David Smith has been named Rochester’s police chief. He has served as interim chief since October 2021.

More than 25 applicants were strongly considered for the position, city officials say.

Mayor Malik Evans announced the appointment of Smith today along with other key positions within the Rochester Police Department and City Hall. Separately, Evans announced he has appointed Van Henri White to fill a vacancy on Rochester City Court.

“David Smith brings a demonstrated commitment to serving the people of Rochester with integrity and compassion and I am proud to put him in a position to instill those values in every officer of the Rochester Police Department,” Evans said.

The mayor added: “These appointments are the result of careful deliberation to complete my picture of a leadership team comprised of the highest caliber of talented, energetic and selfless servant leaders. As we move into the second half of my first year in office, we are accelerating out of the curve with increasing momentum toward our vision for a hope-filled Rochester with an exciting future.”

David Smith

The search for a chief included public feedback, including more than 100 residents.

A veteran of the Rochester Police Department since 1992, Smith began his tenure as an officer in the Southwest quadrant. As interim chief, he has implemented several policy changes regarding officer conduct at protests to safeguard citizens’ rights, including the prohibition of tear gas, flash bangs and long-range acoustical devices, city officials say. A strong advocate for building relationships in the community through foot and bicycle patrols, Smith once commanded the bicycle unit.

As chief, he will need to work with the Police Accountability Board, created to bring transparency to law enforcement, and the Rochester Police Locust Club, the influential police union.

At recent event held by the United Christian Leadership Ministry, Smith spoke about the department working to improve internal training. He and other law enforcement officers at the event sympathized with community issues such as illegal guns and long emergency response times, but noted that the rise in crime, expectations for services beyond law enforcement (such as handling mental health crises), and shortage of officers are too difficult to overcome with dedication alone.

In addition to Smith, Evans made the following appointments.

■ Keith Stith will serve as the RPD deputy chief of community engagement. A more than 30-year veteran of law enforcement, Stith recently retired as chief of detectives of the prosecutor’s office in Hudson County, N.J. With his appointment, the city now has civilian and uniformed violence prevention trust-building teams in the mayor’s office and Police Department, officials said.

■ Carla Johnson was named manager of diversity, equity and inclusion. In her role with the city, she will implement important initiatives including those defined in the RASE Commission’s report.

■ William Boudreaux becomes the city’s chief technology officer. He has been the acting city director of information technology since January. In addition to Boudreaux’s work for the city, his professional experience includes work for the University of Rochester Medical Center, United Technologies Corp., and Ultralife Batteries Inc.

■ Harriet Fisher will serve as director of the Office of Project Management. A city employee since 1998, Fisher most recently was the enterprise applications manager in the Information Technology Department. She is expected to lead implementation of projects including the city’s mainframe transition as well as its land management system updates, which will support the project currently underway to align the city zoning code with the vision of the Rochester 2034 comprehensive plan.

Smith and Boudreaux’s appointments require confirmation from City Council.

The vacancy on Rochester City Court was created by Judge Stephen Miller’s elevation to New York State’s Court of Claims in May. White was a candidate in the recent Democratic primary for City Court judge won by Jacquelyn Grippe and Latoya Lee. In private practice, he has represented clients in criminal and civil matters with a particular emphasis on civil rights litigation. He has served as Rochester City School Board president and also as a special adviser to Mayor Bill Johnson and as a prosecutor in the local district attorney’s Office.

Smriti Jacob is Rochester Beacon managing editor. The Beacon welcomes comments from readers who adhere to our comment policy including use of their full, real name.

2 thoughts on “Evans names Smith as Rochester’s police chief

  1. It appears that Carla Johnson doesn’t have any background listed as do the other candidates. I believe that this position requires a certain background besides the obvious. That obvious is that many organizations have such a position. It would be interesting to know what the qualifications are as well as the job description. In addition the mission of the position with the police Department.
    While all the appointments appear to be well thought out, we now need to support them with and education ‘system’ that educates. One that teaches the way kids learn. One that exposes kids to careers and professions, so that the currently perceived “boring academics”, will be connected to those careers. That will greatly, significantly, expressly keep kids in school, learning and graduating with a relevant education. That will translate into fewer troubled youth and reduce the need for policing. I hope the new members of the police department will encourage the RCSD “system” to improve their program. Not the teachers and don’t blame the kids, the system needs redirection. If the county can do it, the city should take not and step up. If everyone pulls together the City will become an example to other cities. It can be done.

  2. It would be interesting if any of the national applicants were offered the job but didn’t want to take the job because of what it pays, or a requirement that the Chief must live in the city. Then there is the issue of how much this whole exercise cost city taxpayers, something else that should be made public.
    I applauded Smith’s appointment. He knows the culture, is likely to be embraced by the rank and file because they know him, and in spite of the violence we are experiencing, Chief Smith is doing a good job. I hope he stays in this position and implements the changes citizens are calling for. I have confidence in him and I applaud Mayor Evans for this wise decision.

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