City police and clergy join forces to empower Rochester’s neighborhoods

CREDIT: Jeff Witherow/Democrat and Chronicle Media

As former Mayor Thomas Richards prepared to leave office, he called for the Rochester region to build a broader constituency. His charge was rooted in the belief that Rochester’s future required the support and commitment from people beyond city borders.

Referring to the financial realities facing municipal government, Richards said, “A city turned inward and left to only its own resources and capacities will surely fail.”

Mayor Lovely Warren, just nine months into her first term, is already working in contrast to Richards’ more expansive platform. Her latest policy initiative, “Clergy on Patrol,” fosters a sense of ownership by using existing assets to empower the city and its citizens.

This partnership brings together Rochester City Police and local spiritual leaders to emphasize neighborhood-based policing efforts, a central tenet of the Warren administration. This builds upon her existing plans to restructure the city’s policing model in hopes of strengthening relationships between residents and officers.

“Clergy on Patrol” is more pragmatic than ambitious. Its planned neighborhood walks are a common tactic used by other city leaders, including Superintendent Bolgen Vargas of the struggling Rochester City School District. However, the new initiative also adds a new level of community engagement. Churches bring an innate connection to their respective neighborhoods.

When I think about the spiritual leaders at my own church, I’m reminded of the long lines of parishioners who share personal stories with our reverends and staff. These intimate experiences are a vital source of information; they’re the pulse of the community.

This common practice is the differential of the mayor’s new initiative. Unlike other recent efforts, “Clergy on Patrol” uses more than quantitative data and detached recommendations from a routine exercise in analysis. It puts real-world knowledge to work — the type of knowledge only acquired from first-hand accounts of the people who live and work among the streets of Rochester’s neighborhoods.

While “Clergy on Patrol” turns inward, it does not suggest a radical departure from economic development practices set into motion by Richards and his predecessors. Warren continues to invest much of her energies into downtown revitalization.

“Clergy on Patrol” does, however, signal a fundamental shift on community development. It is founded on the belief that leaders and resources needed to drive the city’s future already exist within its neighborhoods. If successful, “Clergy on Patrol” is the type of grassroots effort that can positively reshape Rochester from the inside out based upon “what is” instead of “what if.”

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