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RPD chief to City Council: No more 30-hour shifts for officers

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Rochester’s interim police chief, David Smith, said Monday that he has capped police officers’ shifts to 16 hours after learning that some were working as many as 30 straight hours.

Smith, who is expected to be appointed as chief on Tuesday, revealed the workday limits during his confirmation hearing before City Council on Monday. It was not immediately clear when the cap went into place.

Lawmakers used the occasion to press him on the Rochester Police Department’s extensive use of overtime following a CITY investigative report that found overtime expenses had hit an all-time high and that some officers were tripling their salaries to take home upward of $250,000 a year.

“This is not a new problem, this is a longstanding problem, and every chief who has sat in that seat before, and every time we’ve had a confirmation hearing, and every time we’ve had a budget hearing, we’ve asked what is going to be done about overtime costs,” said City Councilmember Mitch Gruber.

Smith said the department needs to hire more officers.

“A lot of it is due to our current staffing shortage,” Smith said. “For example, looking at my most recent daily patrol shortage report, which came out Sunday, yesterday, we were short a total of 37 officers for patrol, a shortage of 37 8-hour slots.”



The Rochester Police Department is in the midst of recruiting. The application deadline is Friday.

Questioning during the hearing also focused on department priorities.

When asked by several councilmembers about open-air drug markets and drug offenses, Smith said the department, through guidance from past administrations, does not respond to low-level drug offenses unless they are linked to another, violent crime.

“It became, we’re not going to do street level enforcement, we feel our resources are going to be better used on mid-level to higher level, because those also tend to be the ones that generate the violence,” Smith said. “Whether there’s data to back that up, I can’t tell you, but I know anecdotally that was the feeling among prior administrations.”

Councilmember Stanley Martin questioned Smith about the department’s protest response policies. As interim chief, Smith spearheaded a change in departmental policy towards protest, which included limits and bans on the use of different chemical irritants.

Martin asked Smith why he didn’t step in during alleged abuses of force during the protests of September 2020.

“While you were standing there in your role, you had the opportunity to intervene, you had the opportunity to step in, to stop people from being tear gassed, from being shot with pepper bullets, from being arrested with police officers’ knees on their necks, why didn’t you intervene?” Martin asked.

Smith said that during the protests, he was given the duty to call out traffic patrol points and provide security for the Public Safety Building, where most of the demonstrations converged. He said the only time he entered the crowd was to remove two officers that were injured and to get them into the building.

“Many of my briefings for that was, ‘You will take a plastic water bottle, you are not going to react. You will take small rocks, you are not going to react. If you’re going to react, I am going to tell you when to react,’” Smith said. “That was the impetus for the change, and as things changed later, I was able to work under (former) Chief Herriott to make the change of policy into law.”

Smith is the fourth person to hold the office of chief since 2018. If he’s confirmed, he’d be the department’s first permanent chief since La’Ron Singletary, who was fired by then-Mayor Lovely Warren in the fall of 2020 as a result of fallout from the death of Daniel Prude.

Gino Fanelli is a CITY staff writer. He can be reached at (585) 775-9692 or gino@rochester-citynews.com.


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