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Rochester police plan “cultural competency” courses for officers in budget proposal

Jun 8, 2021

Interim Rochester Police Chief Cynthia Herriott at a podium at the Public Safety Building
Credit Max Schulte / WXXI News

Interim Rochester Police Chief Cynthia Herriott said Tuesday, that she wants to add a historical perspective to its training programs in order to connect with the community. 

During one leg of its marathon review of the city department budgets, Rochester City Council peppered Herriott, flanked by much of her command staff, with questions about her plans for the $90.8 million Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren wants to allocate for police.

Herriott said she plans to use a piece of the funds for teaching police officers cultural competency and history. She said both are key to her efforts to enhance the department’s relationship with the community.

“In many ways we don’t understand the law enforcement profession and its history, that it came from a time when maybe law and order were not the call of the day,” Herriott said. “For example, some police departments started from slave patrols and so we think it's important to give that historical perspective.”

Herriott said that this kind of training would be a part of post-academy courses for officers and some elements have already been implemented. Police training has been a hot button issue over the last few years as the department faces increased scrutiny over use of force in a number of incidents, including several deaths involving police.

In the spending plan is more than $250,000 for law firm WilmerHale, which is helping the department update policies and procedures. It also includes $1 million dollars for training, recommended by the RASE Commission on structural racism. Herriott and Warren did not give specifics on what the training would include Tuesday.

Herriott also wants to beef up the department’s tech and video capabilities with a goal of turning around short videos of major incidents involving police within 36 hours to distribute to the community.

“So that we can make sure that the public has the most up to date information possible,” said Herriott. “It helps us to get a clear message about what actually occurred rather than leave a vacuum that some others are only too happy to fill.”

She said the department is fine tuning the process of creating, redacting and releasing short videos of these incidents.

Warren wants to reduce the department’s budget for a second straight year. If passed, it’ll decrease by just under five percent.

City Council will have the final say later this month.

The budget session is below: