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City Council considers outside firm to ‘rethink policing’ in Rochester

A police officer inside a Rochester police cruiser.
James Brown/WXXI News file photo
A police officer inside a Rochester police cruiser.

Mayor Lovely Warren is asking for permission to hire a firm to conduct a United States "Department of Justice style review” of the Rochester Police Department. After the death of Daniel Prude, and the alleged cover up that followed, Warren requested a federal investigation into the incident. 

On Wednesday, Warren and city council met with Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr, known mostly as WilmerHale a law firm that specializes in guiding cities through that process. WilmerHale’s team includes three former United States Attorneys. Those lawyers have worked on many high profile police misconduct cases including those in Baltimore, Chicago, Denver and Ferguson, Missouri. They specialize in analyzing and correcting police policies and practices.

Among those attorney’s is Brent Gurney who says de-escalation policies are common and good but only a start.

”But those policies aren’t worth a damn if those officers aren’t actually trained to de-escalate situations as we know all too well,” said Gurney.

Warren said the city needs to move with urgency to begin their rethink of policing. She said she learned of Willmer Hale’s work through the African American Mayors Association and has been doing a deep dive on their ideas over the last few weeks.

“I’m very impressed with their work on police reform and working with departments to reimagine policing across the country,” said Warren. “I don’t believe that we will find a team that has more expertise than this team that I’m introducing you to right now and have done the work that they have done across the board.”

Warren said the firm’s work would be in concert with the RASE commission and police accountability board. Any agreement with the firm is subject to council approval. During the work session, the firm said that its process could take anywhere from months to years depending on the scope of that work. The scope would impact the cost as well.

James Brown is a reporter with WXXI News. James previously spent a decade in marketing communications, while freelance writing for CITY Newspaper. While at CITY, his reporting focused primarily on arts and entertainment.
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