Rochester Police Department

The Rochester Police Department, also known as the RPD, is the principal law enforcement agency of the City of Rochester, New York, reporting to the city mayor. It currently has approximately 852 officers and support staff, a budget of approximately $90 million, and covers an area of 37 square miles (96 km2). The Rochester Police Department has been under a court-ordered federal consent decree from the United States Department of Justice since 1975 over its hiring practices. The decree was part of a 1975 settlement involving racial discrimination.[3]

Rochester Police Department
MottoServing With Pride
Agency overview
FormedDecember 28, 1819[1]
Preceding agency
  • Metropolitan Police[1]
Annual budget US$ 90.380 Million (2018–2019)[2]:9-2
Jurisdictional structure
Operations jurisdictionRochester, New York, USA
Map of Rochester Police Department's jurisdiction.
Size37 square miles (96 km2)
Legal jurisdictionAs per operations jurisdiction
Primary governing bodyMayor of Rochester, New York
Secondary governing bodyRochester City Council
General nature
Headquarters185 Exchange Boulevard, Rochester
Police Officers 728 (2018–2019)[2]:9-4
Unsworn members 124 (2018–2019)[2]:9-4
Agency executive
  • Mark L. Simmons, Interim Chief of Department
UnitsPatrol Division East
Patrol Division West
Special Operations Division
Patrol Division East
Patrol Division West
Animal Control Center
Special Operations Division


Rochester hired a constable and formed a nightwatch, which first went active on December 28, 1819. Addy Van Slyck was hired as the first police chief in 1853. The police department was reorganized into the Metropolitan Police in 1865.[1]

RPD was the first department in New York State to adopt a police telegraph system in 1886.[4]:64

In 1893, the department established a bicycle division consisting of two officers who apprehended a daily average of 25 "scorchers" (speeders).[4]:54 The department fielded a mounted division in 1895—officers were expected to supply their own horses.[4]:66

In 1905, the department added a traffic bureau consisting of officers stationed at busy Main Street intersections (East Avenue, St. Paul Street, State Street, and Fitzhugh Street).[4]:68 The chief traffic offenders of the time were haywagons. The city installed traffic lights in 1922.

The department's first policewoman, Nellie L. McElroy, was also the first to be appointed under civil service rules in New York State.[4]:62 The department's first African-American officer, Charles Price, was hired in 1947.[5]

Since the establishment of the Rochester Police Department, 14 officers have died in the line of duty.[6]

Police chief goes to jail

In October 1990, while serving as chief of police, Gordan Urlacher was arrested in Mayor Thomas Ryan's office on charges of conspiracy and embezzlement.[7] He was dismissed as chief two months later. On February 25, 1992, former Rochester Police Chief Gordon Urlacher was convicted of three counts of embezzlement and one count of conspiracy for stealing police funds between 1988 and 1990 when he was chief of the police.[8] On March 5, 1992, the former chief was sentenced to four years in federal prison for embezzling more than $200,000 in police department funds.[9] Urlacher was also ordered by a federal judge to repay $150,000 to the city and to spend 12 years on supervised probation.

Civil rights trial

The federal investigation into Chief Urlacher's theft of $300,000 of public funds led to a deeper probing of the entire police department which resulted in charges being brought against 5 additional police officers.[10] The five officers, all members of the vice squad, were accused of beating and terrorizing drugs suspects and skimming drug profits. The 19 counts of police brutality included accusations of the use of unauthorized weapons to beat or threaten suspects, including blackjacks, a cattle prod and lead-filled leather gloves.[11] On December 7, 1992, former Chief, Urlarcher pleaded guilty to the felony conspiracy to violate civil rights admitting that he knew about the civil rights abuses but did nothing about them. During a high-profile 10-week trial 12 officers testified against their 5 colleagues. In the end, the five officers were found not guilty on all charges.[12]

Police chiefs
Addy W. Van Slyck1853Alexander McLean1873–1885Thomas F. Hastings1974–1981
George I. Marsh1854Joseph P. ClearyMay 28, 1885 – March 1, 1905Delmar E. Leach1981–1985
Samuel N. Sherman1855John C. HaydenMarch 1, 1905 – December 31, 1908Gordon F. Urlacher1985 – October 18, 1991
Elisha J. Keeney1856Joseph M. QuigleyJanuary 1, 1909 – September 13, 1927Roy A. Irving1991–1993
W.D. Oviatt1857Andrew J. KavanaughOctober 16, 1927 – 1934Thomas L. ConroyJanuary 3, 1994 – May 31, 1994 (interim)
Seth Simmons1858Henry T. Copenhagen1934–1949Robert S. WarshawJune 1, 1994 – March, 1998
Elisha J. Keeney1859T. Herbert Killip1950–1953Robert J. DuffyMarch 23, 1998 – March 31, 2005
Matthew G. Warner1860William A. Winfield1954–1962Cedric L. AlexanderApril 1, 2005 – December 31, 2005 (interim)
William Charles1861William F. Lombard1963–1970Timothy C. HickeyJanuary 1, 2006 – April 9, 2006 (interim)
William Mudgett1862–1863John A. Mastrella1970–1972David T. MooreApril 10, 2006 – November 10, 2010
Robert R. Harris1864James J. CavotiNovember 1972 – November 1973James M. SheppardNovember 11, 2010 – December 9, 2010 (acting)
December 10, 2010 – December 20, 2013
Samuel M. Sherman1865–1873Joseph E. Battaglia1973–1974Michael L. CiminelliDecember 21, 2013 – March 6, 2014 (Interim)
March 7, 2014 – September 15, 2018
Mark L. SimmonsSeptember 15, 2018 – Present (Interim)
Line of Duty Deaths [6]
Officer NameOfficer RankEnd of WatchCause of Death
Louis GomengingerPatrolmanJuly 3, 1876Gunfire
William P. O'NeilPatrolmanDecember 31, 1888Gunfire
Charles E. TwitchellPatrolmanAugust 10, 1910Gunfire
Frank FordPatrolmanMay 29, 1912Gunfire
James UptonPatrolmanMarch 19, 1919Gunfire
William O'BrienPatrolmanMay 2, 1919Gunfire
John MalletPatrolmanJune 22, 1931Struck by Vehicle
Victor WoodheadDetectiveNovember 17, 1932Gunfire
James T. VolzPatrolmanSeptember 15, 1942Struck by Vehicle
Harold V. ShawPatrolmanDecember 11, 1959Gunfire
Leo L. KerberPatrolmanDecember 10, 1961Struck by Vehicle
John J. JenkinsPolice OfficerJanuary 3, 1979Automobile Accident
Ronald J. SiverPolice OfficerAugust 19, 1984Drowned
Thomas William "Tom" ClarkPolice OfficerJanuary 17, 2006Heart Attack
Daryl R. PiersonPolice OfficerSeptember 3, 2014Gunfire

Alleged misconduct

Civilian review board

In 1992 the City of Rochester created a civilian review board to review internal police investigations when a civilian alleges that a police officer used excessive force or committed a crime. The police chief makes the final decisions on all complaints.

Police shootings

Police shootings
Shooting victimVictim's ageShooting dateOfficer(s) involvedOutcome for victimOutcome for officer
Juliano Anthony Plaza [13]23December 15, 2014Cynthia MuratoreIn guarded conditionUnknown
Thomas Johnson 3rd [14]38September 3, 2014Darryl Pierson, Michael DiPaolaConvicted of the murder of Officer Darryl PiersonPierson was killed by Johnson; DiPaola was justified
Ralph Strong "Irak"24July 27, 2013Lt. Zenelovic, Charles Gorman, Officers Matt Balch, and Daniel RizzoShot Multiple Times; Survived and convicted of two murdersPraised By Mayor Richardson and Police Chief Shepard for Officers Conduct
Israel "Izzy" Andino [15][16]20June 21, 2012Sgt. Aaron Colletti, Sgt. Mike Nicholls, Antonio Gonzalez, Brian Cala, Greg Karnes, Onasis Socol, and Eluid RodriguezDeathDeemed justified by Grand Jury
Hayden Blackman [17]43October 13, 2011Randy BookDeathDeemed justified by Grand Jury
Miguel Cruz21March 1, 2010Daniel SantiagoSurvivedDeemed justified by Grand Jury
Jose Luis Casado192008Ryan HickeyShot in leg; Sentenced to life in prison for firing at policePraised by Police Chief David Moore for his conduct
Patricia Thompson [18]54March 2, 2006Jeff LafaveDeathDeemed justified by Grand Jury
LaShedica Mason13July 10, 2005Mark SimmonsSurvived; gall bladder and several feet of her intestines had to be removedPromoted to Sergeant and Special Assistant to Chief James Sheppard
Willie Carter46August 15, 2002n/aDeathDeemed justified by Grand Jury
Craig Heard14June 10, 2002Serge Savitcheff and Hector PadghamPadgham goes to Greece (NY) Police; Savitcheff goes to Fairport (NY) police
Vandre "Vandy" Davis212001David GebhardtDeathPromoted to Lieutenant
Calvin Greene301988Gary E. SmithDeathSuspended without pay
James Geil24October 12, 1985Allen J. LuccittiSurvivedPleaded guilty to Department use of firearms and was suspended for 31 days
Louis Davila17September 30, 1985Carlos PerezDeathUnknown
Kenneth Jackson25November 16, 1984Ceferino GonzalezDeathUnknown Hiawatha Franklin

May 8, 1979 Harold Dack Death

Alecia McCuller [19]21Nov. 13, 1983Thomas WhitmoreDeathUnknown
Denise Hawkins[20]18November 11, 1975Michael LeachDeathPromoted to Captain
Ronald Frazier [21]191975James SolesDeathUnknown
Unidentified "negro motorist" [22][23]n/aJuly 25, 1967n/aDeathUnknown

Operation Cool Down

In July 2012, the RPD announced Operation Cool Down with the stated purpose to crack down on violence in community. The initiative includes increased police presence in minority neighborhoods with a strategy to target minor offenses.

If you're riding a bike and it doesn't have a bell, we're going to stop you. If it doesn't have lights, we're going to stop you. Tail light's out – we're going to stop you. If you're on a corner and we think you're engaged in criminal activity, we're going to stop you. — Police Chief James Sheppard [24]

Operation Cool Down has prompted a backlash of criticism for racial profiling from residents, the ACLU, and Chair of City Council's Public Safety Committee Adam McFadden.[24] [25][26]

Mass surveillance

A May 2012 national study that examined density of traffic cameras, red light cameras, and police surveillance cameras and authorized wiretaps found Rochester, NY to be the fifth most surveilled city in the country.[27][28][29] Rochester, NY was found only to be behind Washington, D.C., Houston, Denver, and Cheyenne. The NYCLU among other community groups have questioned the effectiveness of the mass surveillance tactics and whether they invade the privacy of everyday law-abiding civilians.[29] According to Rochester Police, there are more than 100 surveillance cameras and 25 red light cameras throughout the city as of May 2012.[29]

Obstructing video recording of police

On numerous occasions civilians have accused Rochester police of intimidating and/or arresting them for legally videotaping police officers in public. Most notable instance was the Emily Good incident.

Emily Good incident

In May 2011, Emily Good was arrested in her front lawn for videotaping a suspicious traffic stop in front of her house. After the video of the police interaction and arrest was posted on YouTube, it immediately went viral and attain sustained local, national,[30][31][32] and international media coverage. Good was charged with Obstructing Governmental Administration but after the video was released the Monroe County District Attorney withdrew the charge.

Riot gear at Puerto Rican Festival

Starting in at least 2004,[33] Rochester Police have come under criticism by their now common practice showing up in riot gear after the Puerto Rican festival. In 2007, festival organizer Ida Perez called the police response "overkill."[34] While many festival goers say honking, dancing, and street partying is all in good fun, police say riot gear is necessary to clear out the neighborhood.[35]

2009 peace march

On October 7, 2009, the eighth anniversary of the start of the Afghanistan war, the Rochester police broke up a peace march protesting the Afghanistan war organized by Rochester Students for a Democratic Society with a massive police response which included at least 40 police.[36] In the end twelve people were arrested, two were hospitalized for their injuries sustained from police. The severe police response drew massive public outcry.[37] Executive Deputy Police Chief Markert admitted the police could have acted differently to ensure everyone's safety.

20/20 hindsight, would I have loved to say, OK, hold on folks, where are you going, and let me facilitate you getting there in a safe manner, that's me the next day. I don't know why that didn't happen. -Executive Deputy Police Chief George Markert, at a Special Session of City Council [38]

Although Rochester police promised a full report on incident,[39][40] no report was ever released and it remains unclear if any changes were made in result of the public response or the internal investigation.

2012 anti-capitalist march

On July 22, 2012, Rochester police broke up a peaceful anti-capitalist march on East Avenue with pepper spray and 18 arrests. Police were criticized for the large use of pepper spray, not giving dispersal orders, and police brutality.[41] Police claim protesters were blocking the street and refused to move,[42][43] but videos from the march indicate that many protesters were arrested while walking on the sidewalk.


The department is organized into two bureaus: Operations and Administration.

Operations Bureau

The Operations Bureau consists of two divisions:[44]

  • Patrol Division
  • Special Operations Division

The Patrol Divisions primarily conduct foot, bicycle, and vehicle patrols and respond to emergency calls, apprehending suspects and conducting preliminary and follow-up investigation of offenses. They also work closely with Police and Citizens Together Against Crime Program (PAC-TAC) participants and Police-Citizen Interaction Committees (PCIC) and participate in the City's four Neighborhood and Business Development (NBD) teams. In 2013, the Patrol Division was reorganized into five sections - Lake Section, Genesee Section, Goodman Section, Clinton Section, and Central Section.

The Special Operations Division is considerably more specialized, consisting of:[45]

  • City Security
  • Bomb Squad
  • Emergency Task Force (ETF) known in other departments as SWAT, which is responsible for incidents such as hostage rescue, barricaded gunman, high-risk warrant service, VIP protection and any other mission assigned by the Chief of Police.
  • Emotionally Disturbed Person Response Team (EDPRT) is a 50 Member Team: A group of employees specially trained, on a voluntary basis, to deal with emotionally disturbed individuals in a variety of situations in the Rochester community. These situations may include suicidal persons, persons exhibiting irrational behavior, handling psychiatric patients, the homeless, various mental health concerns and/or referrals, and any other situations that deal specifically with the needs of the mental health community and emotionally disturbed persons.
  • Hostage Negotiation Team
  • Mobile Field Force which provides crowd control
  • Mounted Section, which provides equestrian patrols downtown
  • SCUBA Squad for drowning and underwater evidence recovery in or on City waterways
  • Special Investigation Section (SIS) for combatting drug trafficking, illegal firearms, and organized crime
  • Tactical Unit which provides special crime-fighting equipment and targets violent crime patterns. The Tactical Unit focuses specifically on shootings, robberies, and other violent street crimes. The Tactical Unit is often called upon by the Major Crimes Unit to assist in tracking down and apprehending homicide suspects as well as SIS to assist in street level narcotics enforcement.
  • Traffic Enforcement Section which provides traffic direction and cites motorists who violate traffic laws, including DWI
  • Youth Services Section

Administration Bureau

The Administration Bureau comprises:

  • Animal Services
  • Family and Victim Services Section
  • Personnel Section
  • Police Background and Recruitment Unit
  • Professional Development Section
  • Technical Services Section


  • Chief
  • Deputy Chief
  • Commander
  • Captain
  • Lieutenant
  • Sergeant
  • (Investigator)
  • Police Officer


As of February 2010, 77% (602) of the police force were white, 11% (83) black, 10% (78) Latino, and 2% (12) Asian. 88% (691) were men while 12% (90) were women. 87% (680) of the officers were non-residents, while 13% (101) were residents of the city of Rochester.[46]

RPD Demographics
RaceRPD %City %
Native American0%1%


The department's headquarters are in the Public Safety Building at 185 Exchange Boulevard. The Patrol Divisions are located at 630 North Clinton Avenue and 1099 Jay Street. The Animal Control Center is at 184 Verona Street. The Special Operations Division is at 261 Child Street.


Officers of the Rochester Police Department will be issued the Beretta Px4 Storm in .45 ACP caliber as a service pistol, replacing the Beretta Cougar.[48]

More recently, RPD officers have been slowly being assigned Glock 21 Gen-4 handguns, as the department has been moving away from the Beretta Px4 STORM .45 ACP as its standard issue sidearm. The Glock handguns have shown to demonstrate a higher reliability in the field, thus prompting the switch after trials with teams within the department.[49]

Currently, all patrol officers carry the Glock 21-Gen4, and those in administrative positions can choose between the Glock 21 Gen-4 or the Glock 30-SF.

See also


  1. "History of the Rochester Police Department". Official website. City of Rochester, New York. Retrieved 2010-12-23.
  2. City of Rochester, NY 2018–2019 Budget, City of Rochester, New York, 2019, retrieved 2019-03-13
  3. "Rochester Police Struggle to Recruit Minorities". POLICE Magazine. Torrance, California: Leslie Pfeiffer. Retrieved 2012-06-23.
  4. Moss, Albert J. (1929), History of the Police Bureau, Rochester, N.Y., Department of Public Safety from Its Earliest Days to May 1, 1929, Rochester, New York: Locust Club, OCLC 7334233
  5. "Black police officers made early mark on Rochester force", The Democrat and Chronicle, Rochester, New York, p. 1B, 2011-02-20, ISSN 1088-5153, retrieved 2011-02-20
  6. "Rochester Police Department, New York, Fallen Officers". Officer Down Memorial Page. Retrieved April 29, 2015.
  7. "U.S. to Reveal Tapes in Trial of Ex-Rochester Police Chief", The New York Times, New York, New York, February 1, 1992
  8. "Ex-Chief's Conviction Taints Rochester Police", The New York Times, New York, New York, February 29, 1992
  9. "Rochester Ex-Police Chief Gets 4 Years in Prison", The New York Times, New York, New York, March 5, 1992
  10. "Brutality Case in Rochester Embroils Police on 2 Fronts", New York Times, New York, New York, January 31, 1993
  11. "Ex-Chief in Rochester Admits Rights Violation in Brutality Case", New York Times, New York, New York, December 8, 1992
  12. "Civil Rights Trial Is Likely to Leave a Long-Term Mark on Rochester Police", The New York Times, New York, New York, April 6, 1993
  13. "Man shot by officer in guarded condition". Democrat and Chronicle. December 16, 2014. Retrieved December 16, 2014.
  14. "Darryl Pierson's killer gets life without parole". Democrat and Chronicle. July 16, 2015. Retrieved March 8, 2016.
  15. "Locust Street residents rip police over shooting". Democrat and Chronicle. June 24, 2012. Retrieved June 27, 2012.
  16. "Protestors Ask Why Bi-Polar Man Was Shot By RPD". WHAM-TV. June 25, 2012. Retrieved June 26, 2012.
  17. "Wife of man killed by police: "He was a good man, a very, very good man"". WHEC-NBC-Channel 10. October 14, 2011. Retrieved September 2, 2012.
  18. "RPD Officer Shoots, Kills Woman". YNN News. Retrieved August 10, 2012.
  19. "Police Clash Goes On". Rochester Times-Union. Rochester, New York. December 19, 1984.
  20. "Former RPD Officer Mistakenly Shoots, Kills Son". WHAM-TV. Rochester, New York. July 24, 2012.
  21. "Indict Officer for Shooting, Group Says". Democrat and Chronicle. Rochester, New York. May 9, 1975.
  22. MAURICE CARROLL (July 25, 1967). "Rochester Negro Is Shot Dead Trying to Drive at Police Line". New York Times. Retrieved June 24, 2012.
  23. UPI (July 25, 1967). "Negro Killed in Rochester Race Violence". The News and Courier. Charleston, South Carolina. Retrieved June 24, 2012.
  24. ""Cool Down" Prompts Racial Profiling Concerns". WHAM-TV. Rochester, New York. July 3, 2012. Archived from the original on July 5, 2012. Retrieved 2012-08-05.
  25. "Editorial: "Cool Down" approach is flawed". Democrat and Chronicle. July 28, 2012. Retrieved 2012-08-05.
  26. "Nestor Ramos: 'Cool Down' could have chilling effect". Democrat and Chronicle. Rochester, New York. July 8, 2012. Retrieved 2012-08-05.
  27. "Cities With the Most Surveillance". Men's Health. May 10, 2012.
  28. "Magazine Says Big Brother is Watching". [Rochester Business Journal]. Rochester, NY. May 30, 2012. Archived from the original on July 6, 2012.
  29. "Rochester: One of the Most "Watched" Cities Nationally". [WHEC-TV] NBC. May 31, 2012.
  30. "Busted After Recording Police: Uproar Over Rochester Woman's Arrest". CNN. June 25, 2012.
  31. "Charge dismissed against woman who videotaped police encounter". CNN. June 27, 2012. Archived from the original on January 19, 2013.
  32. "Cleared After Arrest: Prosecutor Drops Charge Against Emily Good". CNN. July 3, 2012.
  33. Roberto Resto (October 15, 2004). "Under Siege From Police: Rochester police target Puerto Rican Festival". Socialist Worker. Rochester, New York. p. 4.
  34. "Puerto Rican Festival Wants New Rep". YNN Rochester. Rochester, New York. July 17, 2007. Retrieved 2012-08-05.
  35. Barnhart, Rachel (August 2, 2010). "Some Say Police Ruined Their Post-Festival Fun". WHAM-TV. Rochester, New York. Archived from the original on July 26, 2012.
  36. "Anti-War Protestors Say Police Went Too Far". YNN News. Rochester, NY. October 8, 2009.
  37. "Protesters Decry Police". Democrat and Chronicle. October 10, 2009. p. 3B.
  38. "Rochester Council Takes Up Clash". WROC - CBS NEWS. Rochester, NY. October 9, 2009. Archived from the original on February 22, 2013.
  39. "Rochester Police, City Council Examine Protest Clash". WHAM - ABC News. Rochester, NY. October 9, 2009. Archived from the original on June 30, 2012. Retrieved August 19, 2012.
  40. "Review board to investigate how protest led to arrests, confrontation with Rochester police". Democrat and Chronicle. Rochester, NY. October 9, 2009.
  41. "Group criticizes police for being 'overly aggressive' during weekend arrests". Democrat and Chronicle. July 24, 2012.
  42. "Protestors Arrested Saturday Appear in Court". YNN Rochester. July 23, 2012.
  43. "Arrested Protesters Appear in Court Monday". WHEC-TV. Rochester, New York. July 23, 2012.
  44. "Rochester Police Department Operations Bureau". Official website. City of Rochester, New York. Retrieved 2010-12-23.
  45. "Rochester Police Department Special Operations Division". Official website. City of Rochester, New York. Retrieved 2010-12-23.
  46. "Rochester Police Department Demographics, February 2010". Rochester Independent Media Center. January 7, 2011. Retrieved August 10, 2012.
  47. "Rochester (city), New York". State & County QuickFacts. U.S. Census Bureau. Archived from the original on November 23, 2012. Retrieved September 2, 2012.
  48. "Rochester, NY Purchases Beretta Px4 STORM .45 cal Handguns". 2008-07-15. Retrieved 2015-12-27.
  49. Archived August 9, 2012, at the Wayback Machine

Further reading

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