By Robert J. McCarthy
On the day he will appear in a live, televised mayoral election debate, Republican candidate Sergio R. Rodriguez Tuesday released a 12-point crime fighting plan he says will "enhance the quality and quantity of police presence in the city."
"Too often, the only contact with police our citizens in certain neighborhoods have is when someone is being arrested," he said. "We need to act to make the police more engaged with the neighborhoods they are hired to serve, as advocates and protectors, not simply enforcers."
Here is the plan Rodriguez proposed Tuesday:
1. Hire a new police commissioner:
Conduct a nationwide and internal search for a new police commissioner who meets established criteria, who has a proven track record of work in a similar environment, and who understands the reality and urgency of our situation in Buffalo. Reform and improvement of policing must begin at the top.
2. End the routine use of overtime and reallocate the $11 million currently being used to pay overtime, to hire at least 150 new police officers. Overtime also contributes excessively to legacy and pension costs. This is because police officers’ retirement is based on the average of the highest three years worth of salary. Because of this loophole, some retired police officers make as much as $105,000 per year in taxpayer-funded pension. Therefore, reducing overtime presents an opportunity to trim down pension and legacy costs for city residents.
3. With new police hiring we will designate 100 foot patrol officers who will be engaging with the community and getting to know them on a more personal basis. Foot patrol officers will be assigned for the purpose of establishing relationships with community members on their beat, and offering themselves as problem solvers as well as enforcing the law where needed.
4. Patrol cars in areas with a high level of violent crime will be assigned two officers per vehicle. This will not only encourage police officers to walk the beat but will enable them to respond more quickly to crimes in progress since they will not need to wait for backup.
5. Reduce response time for all 911 calls. Having an additional 150 officers on the force will allow for more expedient response times not only for major crimes but for any legitimate police report.
6. Make existing fixed security camera monitors accessible to citizens online, to view footage and live action. Allow citizens to comment on line regarding any crime or suspicious activity they witness while monitoring camera activity. However...
7. Since the use of fixed pole security cameras simply moves crime from one corner to another corner, we will reallocate funds designated for more fixed cameras to purchase dash cams for patrol cars. Dash cameras have been an effective tool used to reduce litigation costs involving citizen complaints of police abuse, will make officers more accountable, and will assist police and prosecutors in documenting arrests.
8. Implement crime prevention programs that have been proven effective in other urban environments, such as Cease Fire in Boston. Cease Fire was originally developed by the Boston Police Department’s Youth Violence Strike Force to reduce gang violence, illegal gun possession, and gun violence in communities. The goals of the program are to carry out a comprehensive strategy to apprehend and prosecute offenders who carry firearms, to put others on notice that offenders face certain and serious punishment for carrying illegal firearms, and to prevent youths from following the same criminal path. As a deterrence strategy, the intervention is based on the assumption that crimes can be prevented when the costs of committing the crime are perceived by the offender to outweigh the benefits of committing a crime. It targets high-risk youths as well as serious and violent juvenile offenders.
9. Recognize the shortcomings of the existing gun buyback program, in that it actually gives criminals an opportunity to destroy evidence of gun violence, and be paid for it at the same time. Instead, we will continue a program to encourage removal of weapons from the streets, but instead of destroying the evidence, we will use the evidence to solve past crimes.
10. Community youth centers should be open seven days per week for extended hours, should all be equipped with computer labs, recreational equipment, and be staffed by volunteer tutors and mentors who see the value in engaging our youth as a deterrent of future crime.
11. Residency requirement. Police officers serving our community need to have a stake in the quality of life in the city. Therefore my administration will advocate strongly with the police union to require any new police officers to move to the city within six months of hiring. We will also provide monetary or tax incentives to existing officers who choose to move into the city.
12. Mayoral walk-along, ride-along with police officers on patrol in order for the mayor to be in touch with community concerns about crime and policing.