Now is not the right time for city council to step in on this, it's really up to Lovely Warren to name her Police Chief and for him or her to set a direction.
As I see it, the city will either make some pronounced effort to increase enforcement of the state's existing anti-drug laws (I have suggested increased undercover narcotics investigation and SWAT-style drug house raids) as a "get-tough" policy, or it will continue to largely ignore the problem in the name of "improved community relations."
Stop-and-frisk of street-corner loiterers is not going to be a solution. The serious hard drug sales are occurring from drug houses, not in open-air. Open-air sales are mostly marijuana. What's required is actual undercover work by narcotics detectives, to include developing informants and executing controlled crack cocaine and heroin buys from drug houses. This is not regular patrol officers riding around and running their low-level harassment game by briefly shining their spotlights on corner crowds, then driving on.
It's up to Warren to establish her credibility on this.
I think that tightening the eligibility restrictions is perhaps not the right move at this time. Despite that some people will game the system or grow too comfortable on it, I think that's just the cost of having a working safety net. Anybody's situation can change and I for one know that I would not want to starve.
There is a fair bit of food stamp fraud in my Rochester neighborhood. I've seen people trading in their food stamps to corner stores for cash - the stores pay about 50 cents on the dollar. I've been approached in Save A Lot by other shoppers asking to cash out my groceries with their food stamps in exchange for my cash, offering me a discount. I've seen tenants lend their food stamp cards to landlords as a way to cover whatever remainder of the rent was not paid by social services.
People who need food assistance and get food stamps but for whatever reason don't manage to convert their food stamps to food end up getting food mainly by working the soup kitchen and food pantry circuit. There are multiple free hot meals served throughout the city daily, enough so that you could go from one to the next all day long.
I would like to see a concerted effort to identify and reduce fraud, especially going after stores and recipients who are colluding to sell the food stamps basically for drugs. As it is, I don't see that this is happening. I have never heard about any arrests or seen any corner store's food stamp machine taken away. In the grand scheme of the overall program, the fraud may be a relatively small percentage. But in some of our city neighborhoods the fraud is pronounced. It's waste to the taxpayer and I think ends up harming the benefit recipient too. If we would aggressively tackle this fraud, I think the general public would feel better about the program and the good that it does.
I like Richards' vision of investing in downtown and transitioning neighborhoods to compete for young professionals, empty-nesters, & other people who are considering a return to urban living by choice. Upscale residential development admittedly predates Richards' control, but Richards has increased momentum, is the only mayor who has made headway on fixing Main & Clinton, and has even garnered investment in neighborhoods outside of the southeast quadrant.
It's perhaps a fair criticism to say that there's "two Rochesters" and that Richards seems focused mainly on one, but what's wrong with wanting your city to be upwardly mobile? And have the other neighborhoods really been terribly neglected? Richards has supported development wherever the market would invest and has done a reasonably good job of dealing with blight, e.g. replacing abandoned buildings with neighborhood peace gardens.
I do question whether Rochester Police could potentially be more effectively managed, and not merely to be more sensitive, but rather to command more respect and particularly to be more proactive especially in dealing with drug houses. I get it that if a majority of residents in a particular neighborhood want to use hard drugs, eliminating those becomes a difficult proposition, but I don't see why there's so little apparent effort.
This is the best art thing going on in the city this year.
David, I am white but I do live in a decidedly unprivileged area of the northeast quadrant which is about 80% black and which has a visible police presence. From my experience, and yes I'm not black but based on what I see with my eyes, it's not actually the case that police are harassing city residents just for being black or for being out and about.
Except when the police are explicitly called on, mostly they just seem to ride around in their cars. The only people I've seen the police routinely stepping out with are the groups that are dealing drugs on the corners, and even that is not done too aggressively. I've never seen anybody roughed up.
There are a lot of burglaries and robberies that occur, and oftentimes police are searching for suspects based on a description, so I get it that for a young black person going about his business, perhaps he has had some negative experiences with the police. In this case let's assume that the people weren't actually fighting but were just verbally arguing, and the neighbor called the police out of an abundance of caution, falsely stating that they were fighting. Maybe it isn't fair that an innocent person is sometimes suspected, but it doesn't warrant or excuse screaming at cops, swinging on them, pulling out mace on them, or anything of that nature. For somebody to initiate a physical thing vs. the police and then claim to be the victim, it's deluded - even if the police are trying to handcuff a person and they haven't done anything wrong. But being belligerent with police is wrong and interfering with their work does warrant some response.
The police do have important work to do and they are working in our interest, so in the occasion where a police officer asks for some of our time, most reasonable people will just automatically give it. To say that a whole neighborhood of people are experiencing routine police intervention in their lives, I just don't see it. Believe me, police are not that overstaffed and mostly what they're doing is responding to explicit calls for service and/or trying to solve real crime that's actually just happened.
You're right, there are many extreme YouTube comments on this but those comments are apt to be from trolls with no connection to our community. If you look at the local forums where this is being discussed, I think you'll see more level-headed comments. The top comment on one news sites is "what will it take for people to understand that resisting arrest is not a wise decision?"
As far as the idea that maybe Rochester is shocked by the video, Cops has been on TV for no short amount of time and it's really no mystery what police procedure is for dealing with those who resist arrest. Yes seeing it happen to your neighbor may bring it home a bit, but of course an officer will forcefully put an offender face down to the ground at any sign of resistance and will kneel heavily on the offender's neck or back in order to incapacitate him or her while applying handcuffs. And yes, those who struggle further will end up being hit with a taser, maced, dog bitten, or receiving blows by hand or by stick, depending on the difficulty of obtaining compliance and the degree to which officer safety is put at risk.
The reality is that it's difficult to handcuff somebody who is uncooperative. The only way to do it is to physically dominate the person as described above. From my reading of the video, I think the involved officer was actually conflicted about putting this particular offender on her stomach, perhaps due to her claims of pregnancy, and ultimately was able to avoid doing that. I think he did what he had to do and thankfully, with some help, was able to avoid forcing this woman to eat dirt.
Some people are just obstinate by nature and have real difficulty accepting any authority over them. According to other news reports, Ms. Hardaway's behavior in court today was also atrocious, at least initially. It's sad to see these sorts of scenarios play out, especially when people aren't even the subject of police action but nevertheless blow up during police contact due to a character fault. It's as if they just can't help themselves.
I say this especially since the consequences of getting into even a relatively minor scuffle with the police are always severe, as I suppose they should be. Obviously if you resist or run from the police, the police really have no choice but to take you to jail at least for that night. Personally I hope that the woman is able to get the charges reduced as part of some plea deal so that at least she won't suffer a felony conviction. If she can get probation and counseling, I think it would be best.
I think that stepping up the deployment of Tasers to the police force could help here. Without these, if you resist then the police aren't left with much option besides to get a bit physical. With them, the police can often neutralize you rather than needing to continue in a violent struggle. Yes Tasers are already deployed among Rochester police, but only some officers are trained on (and issued with) these. In this case, it seems that none of the responding officers had one. Don't get me wrong - a distracting/compliance strike to the head is likely preferable to using a Taser on somebody who claims pregnancy. But, consider that if either of the two officers who were arresting the brother (who was also resisting) had used a Taser to effect that arrest more quickly, Ms. Hardaway may have not had as much of a chance to interfere, or at least one of those other officers would have been freed up to help with the arrest of Ms. Hardaway.
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