The city of Rochester, with three homicides in 24 hours, and three times as many as last year at this time, is facing a crisis of violence.
And the city government, with its police department in the fore, is stumbling forward like a drunk in the night, with neither a strategic plan nor a tactical response. The city’s most senior credible leader is the police department’s Major Crimes commander, who has become the face of a steady drumbeat of gunshots and lost lives. Statements from the mayor, chief and executive deputy chief have been vacuous or dishonest.
Like the recent promise of focused, targeted policing.
“There is no plan internally to stop this violence,” said a veteran law enforcement officer, one of several in and out of the Rochester Police Department asked to comment anonymously about the city’s situation. “It’s all smoke and mirrors. They came out and said we target ‘prolific offenders’ – and that’s a lie.
“There is no plan to address any of this violence. Nothing. No Tactical Unit, no increased police presence, nothing.
“Have you ever seen another administration that didn’t make stopping violence a priority?”
Several officers said reporters should press the chief’s office for specifics of its plan to stop the rash of murders, claiming that there was no such plan to release.
Another issue is officer morale.
“Biggest problem they have right now is a demoralized police department,” one senior command officer said. “They have no faith in the leadership. City Hall has thrown them under the bus and (City) Council is doing everything they can to defund them. Not to mention they’re afraid of suspension or, even worse, to be indicted.
“I would have been out there with the troops right along to show I have their back as much as possible. Lead from the front and speak out to support them when they’re right.
“There needs to be a comprehensive plan to target the known offenders and areas.
“I assure you the guys know those likely responsible for these ongoing violent acts, but aren’t getting the support they need to get control back.
“This retaliation is only going to get worse with each of these shootings (and) murders.”
Command quality is a concern for every officer contacted. They question the abilities of the chief’s office, and the mayoral restrictions under which it is currently operating.
“It’s a sad day for Rochester,” said one very senior officer. “The men and women of the RPD are demoralized. There is no confidence in the mayor, City Council or the current RPD administration. Leadership matters!
“First, the chief must be able to do (her) job without undue influence from politicians.
“Second, a qualified (and) capable command staff must be put in place.
“Third, the chief must be able to build the morale of the police department to achieve the mission, and ultimate vision of the department.
“Any time a police department transitions from having a capable, talented and qualified command staff (whose members are removed from their) posts, replacing their talent and expertise will be an uphill battle.
“Until the above happens, no public safety plan proposed will ever come to fruition and Rochester will continue to experience the level of violence seen in recent weeks.”
A significant part of the problem: Attacks upon the department by activists, reporters and politicians, and the distortions they create.
“When a handful of activists are allowed to push their narrative, out of 200,000 residents, reality is lost,” one commanding officer said. Rochester Police Locust Club President “Mike Mazzeo needs to hire his own (public information officer) or he needs to retire. His message is tired and the men (and) women (in the department) are the ones suffering.
“The officers still choose to come to work, each day, and try to do the best job they are allowed to do. (But) how many times can they touch the hot stove before they stop for fear of being burned?
“They will do every hard, thankless job when they know they have support from SOMEONE. At this point, they are in survival mode and will do no more than the oath they took. That is not good enough to be an effective police force.”
Blame spreads heavily to politicians and to the community.
Fighting violence and fixing department problems is “such an easy answer when you are allowed to be a chief and are allowed to speak from the heart. (But) when City Hall controls every message and the mayor is hiding in her bunker, anything you say is BS!” another senior command officer said.
“When do we start treating our fellow human beings better?
“When do we get elected officials to do more than just pontificate from a Zoom screen?
“Bob Stevenson just passed this week. What would he be doing right now? Certainly not sitting on the sidelines!
“The city has too rich of a history to let it die a slow and ugly death. It’s hard to be positive when I see what is happening daily … to say I am disgusted by ‘man’s inhumanity to man’ is an understatement.”
Other factors in Rochester’s violent uptick are so-called criminal-justice reforms and policies coming out of the state Capitol and government. Not just the catch-and-release created by bail reform and anti-police judges, but the functional elimination of parole supervision by state policy.
“It goes well beyond issues in,” the Rochester Police Department, said one senior state law-enforcement officer. “The powers that be at NYS DOCCS – they run parole now – are making it impossible for parole officers to do their jobs. Their refusal to issue parole warrants against offenders who are in repeated and significant violations of the conditions of their release compromises the safety of (New York state) in general and Rochester in particular.
“Their releases to the street are getting worse every year.”
A social breakdown is happening in the city of Rochester, at a rate far higher than national or state averages. It is happening at a time of political incompetence and dysfunction, when the police department is rudderless and dispirited by a lack of support and leadership, and the community is riven by anarchist activists before whom all of society is kowtowing.
There are no grownups in the room, there is no plan to fight back, the vultures only care about their piece of the carcass.
And the only reason the body count isn’t higher is because we’ve got good surgeons at the trauma center.
And it’s going to stay that way until a true leader emerges from somewhere.