NEWS BLOG: Does it matter if a minority recruit comes from the city?

Rochester City Council President Lovely Warren: Some recruits only recently moved out of the city. FILE PHOTO

BY CHRISTINE CARRIE FIEN

While most everyone has been celebrating the indisputably good news that minority participation in the Rochester Police Department is up, I remembered a fact I learned not long ago: that many, if not most, of the RPD’s minority recruits traditionally come from the suburbs, not the city.

That’s true of the current recruit class. Sixteen of the 28 recruits — 57 percent — represent minority populations. (That’s the highest percentage anyone can remember, by the way. Historically, it’s been below 25 percent.) But only six of those 16 live in the city.

When people talk about the tension between segments of the city population and the police department, they talk about race, yes, but also class, economics, and a lack of geographic and, more important, cultural knowledge of the city. Put race aside, and don’t those other issues still apply? A Latino from Gates isn’t more likely to have an intuitive understanding of the city simply because he or she is Latino, right?

I ran my argument by Mayor Tom Richards and City Council President Lovely Warren, with interesting results. Both said that finding qualified minorities in the city can be a challenge: they might not be able to pass the entrance exam, or they might have criminal records, to cite two examples.

“I’ve got to get people in here who can qualify for these jobs and are prepared for them,” Richards said. “I suppose you could say that if I took some guy off the corner of Conkey and Clifford, he would know more about that neighborhood. But I can’t get him in to be a policeman in today’s environment. You have to have a whole bunch of things to qualify and, quite frankly, we need that, because we’re putting a lot of faith and confidence in these people.”

But Richards said that place of origin aside, it’s important for city residents to see people who look like them on the police force. He also mentioned the public safety school being formed this year, which will help city students obtain careers in police, fire, and emergency communications.

Warren said that some of the minority recruits are relatively recent transplants from the city and maintain their city roots and ties.

It’s against state law to require members of the police and fire departments to live in the city. Rochester was able to get around that this year by requiring RFD applicants to reside in the city in order to take the entrance exam. After applicants passed the exam and were sworn in, they could move anywhere they wanted, Richards said.

Partly as a result of that tactic, many more city residents came out to take the fire exam than in past years. But the situation with the RPD is a bit different, Richards and Warren said, because the requirements are different. And the fear and animosity some in the city have for police do keep people from joining.

There may be ways to incorporate some of what the RFD did — the whole recruitment process was overhauled — into the RPD, Richards said, and the city might look into that.

11 comments

  1. So the Mayor just wants to put a “face of color” on the new hires to fool people in the city into believing that the RPD and RFD are “one of them”? What would be the reaction of a Republican spewed this garbage?

  2. […] Thank you to Christine Fien for pulling back the curtain a bit on City Hall’s feelings on diversity in City News. […]

  3. RochesterMusician · · Reply

    Let me ask a more basic question — does it matter if city policemen and women are minorities? If so, why? Shouldn’t it matter more whether the police are competent, well trained, and enforce the laws of the community while treating people fairly, regardless of the skin color or ethnic background of the police person? If a white person said that he/she was uncomfortable having police of a different race, that person would rightly be accused of being racist.

    1. Yes, it does matter if they are minorities. The majority of the police officers in the city are caucasian and they are not friendly nor do they care about the communities they serve. In fact they are quite rude and do not treat city residents like they are protecting them but rather putting them in their place. A cop who is a minority would be more likely to treat the residents as their equal and approach them with a different attitude. I know you are inclined to believe that if they are trained well they will do right but the reality is that if you are raised to think a certain way about a group of people that is almost impossible to change.

  4. With initiatives like the “Cool Down Detail” from early July, it is building a bigger wedge between the RPD and the community it is suppose to protect and serve. The very community that the city of Rochester needs to diversify its police force is the one that is constantly subject to the stop and frisk procedures for petty violations. These types of initiatives by the City of Rochester and the RPD hinder minority participation in the police force

  5. With all the investment of time and resources in the surrounding neighborhood by residents, organizations, and government, to hear the Mayor use “Conkey & Clifford” as shorthand for “bad place” is outrageous and insulting.

    Shame on you, Mayor Richards!

    1. RochesterMusician · · Reply

      Let’s face reality — Conkey and Clifford is a bad place. I love doing urban runs, sometimes up to 15 miles, and I’ve run through a lot of places (generally all over the NE and SE portions of Rochester) that many of my friends think might be dangerous, yet I’ve never felt the least bit uncomfortable, with one exception,c and that exception was Conkey near Clifford.

      1. But you’re not mayor — so your subjective impressions don’t stigmatize a neighborhood by being amplified by his stature and media coverage.

        People in the neighborhood and beyond have come together to make great strides improving Conkey & Clifford and the surrounding blocks. The mayor was happy to show up earlier this summer to cut the ribbon there on the new urban rail-trail and collect some media exposure. Everyone involved deserves better than to be patted on the back by the mayor one day, then get the back of his hand not long after.

        I trained for 4 marathons on the old rail right-of-way that passes through Conkey/Clifford. Compared to a decade ago, the situation in the neighborhood has vastly improved. If the mayor spent more time out of his City Hall bubble talking with real people and organizations that are working “on the ground” around the city — or even the Council president, whose district includes Conkey/Clifford — he’d be better informed and better spoken.

        d

  6. I suppose that if I took some guy out of the city attorney’s office, that he would know more about that area of city government. But I can’t get him in to be a mayor in today’s environment, because you have to have a whole bunch of things to qualify: like tact and respect, and sensitivity toward individuals and neighborhoods. Quite frankly, we need that, because we’re putting a lot of faith and confidence in the mayor’s office.

  7. Sometimes liberals, even ordinary Democrats, come off looking and sounding ridiculous. This insistence on “sensitivity” and even respect is so much rubbish. I am very far left in my politics but I don’t allow those ideas to be muddied by PC nonsense. I found the Mayor’s comments rational and truthful. Clifford & Conkey IS a dangerous place- just ask the residents. The idea that we can’t speak the truth for fear of being insensitive “toward individuals and neighborhoods” is absurd, off the wall, dumb.

    Problem solving requires the truth. Do-gooder Super Mommies get in the way of rational examination mostly because of their exaggerated sense of self righteousness derived from their own feelings of inadequacy or past oppression. When the Mayor says that minorities like to see minority cops that is not insensitive it is rational, factual and unemotional. The hyper-sensitive reaction to the truth is a real burden to solving problems.

    Similarly, the idea of respect is abused. People EARN respect, they are not entitled to it. Every citizen is entitled to the basic civil respect we give to one another but that’s as far as it goes. If we meet politely and while we wait for the bus together you spit on the street or blow your nose on your blouse- well, you have lost my respect. I don’t HAVE to give it. It is not a law or a social requirement. You lost my respect by your choice of action. The same applies to people who trash their neighborhoods, drink and fight all night, swear incessantly and a thousand other behaviors that are offensive to society.

    The notion that we are all members of a society, one that is subject to change, and it is your valid participation in the conventions and forces of that society that determine “respect” is a comforting fact of life. Truth should never be sacrificed for someone’s “feelings.’ That includes imaginary “sensitivity.”

    1. “Insistence on ‘sensitivity’ and even respect is so much rubbish.”

      Okay, then!

      “Do-gooder Super Mommies”

      I must have missed the part about the Super Mommies. Dang!

      “while we wait for the bus together you spit on the street or blow your nose on your blouse”

      Now this is getting really weird. I’m outta here!

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