Big changes were announced in how Rochester police will handle protests and mass gatherings.
Mayor Evans and Interim RPD Chief David Smith announced K9s will be prohibited, as will tear gas, flashbangs, and acoustic devices.
Also, any use of pepper balls must be authorized by a high-ranking official.
Officers will be required to wear bodycams, and are not allowed to tape over their badges.
And arresting protestors is prohibited, unless that protestor physically interferes with officers.
From the Mayor's office:
Mayor Malik D. Evans and Interim Police Chief David Smith today announced that the Rochester Police Department has developed a series of new policies and procedures that will ensure citizens’ right to fairly and safely exercise their First Amendment right to protest.
Beginning today, the following policies will be in effect for RPD response to protests and mass gatherings in Rochester:
· The use of tear gas, flash bangs, long range acoustical device (LRADS) tones, and kettling is banned.
· Mandatory wearing of body-worn cameras by police officers while at assemblies.
· Officers will not tape over their badges. If a determination is made by the Police Chief that Officers may remove their name badges to protect their safety, Officers will wear a clearly identifiable, unique number assigned to them that will be prominently displayed at all times.
· Significant limitations are imposed on use of pepper balls. Any use of pepper balls must be authorized by a high ranking official and they may not be used to clear an area during a peaceful event.
· Use of K-9 officers are prohibited at protests and mass gatherings.
· The City’s Corporation Counsel will be included in all planning discussions for protests and mass gatherings and will be present with RPD command staff during an event.
· Language added to the Police Department’s eviction protocol clarifies the right to protest and to take video at the scene. The policy specifically prohibits the arrest of protestors at evictions unless they physically interfere with officers.
“We can debate about who is right or wrong about the issues behind social movements, but one thing that is not debatable is the right of the people to peaceably assemble,” said Mayor Evans. “We want to ensure that, in Rochester, assemblies take place in a manner that is safe for both protestors and police.”
“We’ve learned a lot over the past two years with regard to police-community interactions,” said Chief Smith. “Our officers remain committed to protecting our community, and that includes those who exercise their rights to peacefully protest.”