CITY OF ROCHESTER
(Wednesday, February 5, 2009) - I have been asked to respond to Locust Club President Michael Mazzeo’s call for an increase in the number of police sections from two to seven in an effort to make a “community policing” plan easier.
Before responding, I would like to first separate this policy issue from the concern for Officer Anthony DiPonzio and ask that the community keep him in their prayers as he begins to show positive signs in his recovery.
There is no way we can ever connect this tragic shooting with the number of police stations in the city. The two issues could not be farther apart. While the police reorganization of 2004 has its pros and cons, the city experienced its highest levels of violent crime and homicides when there were seven sections. In the past, section offices closed at 4 p.m., so for 16 hours, citizens would have to call 911. One only has to look at real crime data from 1990-present to realize that we cannot connect violent crimes with the number of buildings. I believe that the current model with more officers and more presence has been more effective. I fully support assigning the same officers to the same neighborhoods, every day.
The reorganization allowed the City to realize $1 million in savings toward the hiring of a record number of officers and allow us to provide a record amount of police overtime to increase results.
The City is currently reorganizing departments into a quadrant system to better serve customers and streamline costs. It is my desire that a component of that will include police presence. Currently, the City has fewer full-time employees than at any time since the Truman Administration, yet Rochester has more police officers than at any time in history.
Given our $31.9 million shortfall, it would be difficult to accomplish the addition of buildings and associated costs without corresponding reductions. One possibility that I would ask Mr. Mazzeo’s assistance with is to drastically reduce police overtime expenditures to help fund changes of this nature as well as a total change in philosophy in the way we cover hockey games, festivals and other events. Savings from nice, but not necessary items could be used to help fund reorganization changes.
It is important to note that some officials and citizens have responded to the shooting incident by characterizing it as a police-community relations issue. I could not disagree more with this categorization. The cold-blooded shooting of Officer DiPonzio had nothing to do with police-community relations and allegedly had everything to do with a troubled 14-year-old. We only have to look at the homicides and shooting occurring in Rochester and compare them with the issues surrounding police-community relations to realize what the real problem is. It is a rarity to have a police officer take a life or attack someone. It is not a rarity to have one young person attack, or take the life of another. We need to understand that this problem will not be solved with money, but with a focus on fixing the real roots of this issue.