LONSBERRY: RPD Supporters Must Organize

You always lose the wars you don’t fight.

               And the officers of the Rochester Police Department are in danger of being butchered at the ballot box in November as city residents face a referendum to create a police accountability board with the power to discipline and fire individual officers.

               That’s an issue now because on the 6 o’clock news last night, when the topic was the PAB, the activist minister sounded fired up and the police chief sounded defeated.

               And as lines are drawn in a vote that will document Rochester’s buy-in of the legitimacy of progressive prejudice against police, it’s looking like the city’s political machine will be arrayed against the police and no one will speak or organize in the officer’s behalf.

               It will be like lambs to the slaughter.

               The referendum is driven by a unanimous vote of the City Council, calling for a stripping of disciplinary authority from the police chief and the investing of subpoena and firing authority in an activist panel being pushed by people who reek of anti-cop bigotry. The handful of protestors and pastors who hate and condemn the police at every turn will be given ultimate disciplinary power over officers whose profession they neither understand nor respect.

               And that unanimous vote could not have been taken without the private approval of the mayor whose political operation put some of the councilmembers in office and which is close to controlling every aspect of the city’s political community.

               Further pushing the vote for a PAB is the local Democratic Party, which needs to motivate black voter turnout in the city in order to help its county executive candidate overcome suburban resistance.

               That puts the Democratic Party, the mayor’s machine, the City Council campaigners, and the progressive anti-cop and race activists – all of whom are experienced at running political campaigns – up against police officers who not only have no political experience but who are largely prohibited by ethics from getting involved in the city’s electoral process.

               Like I said, like lambs to the slaughter.

               It will be five months of invective and rhetoric about the police being a racist occupying army, and the vote in November is going to be about every bad shooting or race riot across the country.

               It will be gasoline and spark, to the benefit of politicians and the hurt of the police.

               Unless someone takes a stand. Unless there is an effective and intelligent effort to present the other side, to demonstrate why this is proposal will be ruinous to the department and to Rochester’s public safety.

               Who should do this?

               First, the union.

               The Rochester Police Locust Club is earnest, but not effective. Its efforts to project a spirit of respect and understanding for its members have not worked outside that portion of the community already predisposed to support the police.

               The union must organize a public communications and political campaign effort now to take its message to city residents and voters through the summer and to Election Day. Its current efforts are well intentioned, but amateurish and failed. The face and voice of that effort must be someone other than the union president. He is a great man, but he is a tired, old, white guy. The face of the Locust Club should be a dynamic, likable, young, black guy.

               And the union, which has spent so much money and donated so much labor to decades of Democrat politicians, must call in its favors. It must demand the support of those it has supported.

               And other public employee unions should stand beside their RPD brothers and sisters. Because the principle here is not fundamentally about police, it is about discipline and who has the authority to discipline public employees.

               If today’s prejudice makes officers subject to the vengefulness of an unelected anti-cop board, tomorrow’s prejudice will do the same thing to school teachers, DMV clerks, and firefighters. If one group is upset about its ignorance of police practices, then another group is going to be upset about its ignorance of overtime practices.

               For the public employee unions which fund the Democratic Party in New York to be silent in this matter will be to show their true allegiance and purpose – empowering a political party instead of representing dues-paying members.

               Former chiefs and other law-enforcement leaders also need to stand up.

               Former Chief James Sheppard and current Sheriff Todd Baxter must speak against a proposal they know is wrong and hurtful. The same is true of police chiefs across the region, and of former chief and deputy mayor Cedric Alexander. And the many residents of Rochester who support the police – to include African-American residents – must be brave enough to say what is unpopular.

               Pastors and mothers and neighborhood organizations must organize and march, hold press conferences and campaign, to argue against this attack, and to argue for trusting the police chief as the final decider of police discipline.

               To stand on the sidelines silent while this attack on Rochester officers goes forward is cowardice. To be intimidated by the assertion that opposition to the PAB is racism is dishonorable.

               The police would be there if you needed help.

               And you must be there now that they need help.

               No one wants renegade cops. But neither should anyone want renegade activists.

               As recently as yesterday a policeman who crossed the line was held accountable, he was convicted of a crime.

               That is not an argument for changing the system – that is a proof that the system works.

               And giving in to the bigotry of this City Council push to attack Rochester police officers is wrong.

               And standing up against it is right.

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