ROCHESTER — When Mayor Lovely Warren took office in 2014, she moved forward with her campaign promise to reorganize the Rochester Police Department. And she put the charge in Chief Michael Ciminelli’s hands.
The department, which has been operating under a two-sector, east-west model since 2004, will now be divided into five sectors, Ciminelli explained. Prior to 2004, the department had seven sectors.
Returning to the seven-sector model would not have been financially or operationally feasible for the 725-member force, he said.
The new model is "similar in concept (to the seven-sector model) but being done a little differently," Ciminelli noted. "The key idea is to return the police department to the community. Another key similarity is that instead of large patrol areas, we will have smaller neighborhood beats. The same officer is assigned to the same patrol beat, which is a critical feature we’re going to be going back to."
The new sections are Lake, Genesee, Goodman, Clinton and Central. Central will include downtown and adjacent neighborhoods.
The department originally planned to roll out the new model in March, but the start date was pushed back to April 20 because of negotiations with the Locust Club, the police union. An agreement was announced by the mayor’s office on March 20.
"This (reorganization) is mutually beneficial for us and the community," Ciminelli said. "We want people to trust this department, know their beat officers. … That (trust) will lead to better results in dealing with crime."
As it unveils its revamped community policing model, the department has turned to local clergy to help spread the word about the RPD’s goals to improve relations and develop closer ties to the neighborhoods and residents that officers patrol, Ciminelli said. The RPD continues to seek out volunteers from all denominations, but he noted that nonclergy community members also are welcome to join this effort.
"Members of the clergy are a great means to get to people in the community," he added. "They have contact with people in the congregations and residents and are trusted in the community and neighborhoods. … This is one mechanism to (improve) community relations. We really look at this as a bridge."
The outreach also is an extension of the work started last fall through the Clergy on Patrol program. That initiative involves members of the clergy taking walks on a regular basis with police officers, according to information at www.cityofrochester.gov/clergyrpd.
The Rev. Roger Breedlove, who is part of the reorganization outreach and Clergy on Patrol, said that members of the clergy have a responsibility to pray for police and serve as that bridge between residents and the police. Although his church, In Christ New Hope Ministry where he is the pastor, is not in the city, many of this 300 members live there, he said.
"As clergy, we’re representing our congregations, we become a voice for them," he said. "As the chief represents the police and becomes their voice. …We come together and collaborate and see how we can make this a place where everybody can live and how we can make it better."
Rev. Breedlove and Father Laurence Tracy, who is not part of the clergy outreach team but serves the Latino community in the city, support the reorganization plan.
"It’s a step in the right direction," Rev. Breedlove said. "The objective of the RPD is to not have an officer just riding around, patrolling, but really getting out in the community, building relationships. What better way than walking up and down our neighborhood and getting to know people on first-name basis?"
"The closer relationships we can have between residents and police force of the city, the faster we can dispel myths of African-Americans and Hispanics as being dangerous," concurred Father Tracy. "And Hispanics and African-Americans can get to know police officers on a more personal basis."
Obtaining resident feedback from all areas of the city was part of the first phase of the reorganization, which also included intensive data analysis, Ciminelli said. That initial phase began in January 2014.
That analysis led to the police not only creating the five sectors, but also smaller police service areas, said Lt. Mark Simmons. Officers also will be expected to get out of their cars more and walk those beats, he added.
Ciminelli said that officers also will be asked to stop at schools, recreation centers, businesses and playgrounds and interact with the people at those places when time permits on the job.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Anyone interested in volunteering to assist the Rochester Police Department with outreach or Clergy on Patrol may call the chief’s office at 585-428-7033. For more information on the reorganization, visit www.cityofrochester.gov/rpdreorganization.