Rochester’s $33 Million Plan to Build New Police Stations

A little-known City proposal to build 3 new police stations is coming under fire by community activists. The proposal would cost $33 million and lead to the demolition of 7 homes in the Beechwood neighborhood. People are coming together to fight the displacement of tenants, gentrification of neighborhoods, and the expansion of spending on policing over unfunded vital life-affirming community resources.

The City proposal calls for the creation of new police stations for the Goodman, Lake and Genesee police sections, with proposed locations on East Main Street, Lake Avenue, and the Bull’s Head area respectively. Each police station is projected to cost $10 million. A site for the Bull’s Head police station has not been selected, but $2.8 million has already been approved by City Council for sites for the Goodman and Lake section stations. City Council will vote to invoke eminent domain for properties for the East Main station in February. There is a public hearing where community members can weigh-in on the proposal Thursday February, 7, 5pm at City Hall, 30 Church Street.

If you did not know about the City’s $33 million proposal to build three new police stations, you are not alone. Many residents on Hayward Avenue in the Beechwood neighborhood were unaware of the City proposal, despite living a street over from the proposed site of the Goodman section station. And most of the tenants on Laura Street, whose homes would be demolished to make room for the police station, were unaware of the proposal until notified by activists.

These police stations would be a massive increase in police spending at a time when America is still the world leader in locking up its own. If the Rochester City budget represents the priorities of City government, it appears that policing is a priority above all else. RPD comprises 27% of the City budget. The 2018-19 budget for RPD is $141 million, compared to a mere $500,000 for youth outreach and violence prevention. If you combined the Library, Recreation and Youth Services and Neighborhood and Business Development Department budgets it would still amount to less than half of the RPD budget.

And Rochester is unique in its high level of police spending compared to neighboring cities. Rochester spends more on policing than Buffalo, despite the fact that Buffalo is a larger city than Rochester, both in population and area. Rochester spends $141 million on policing compared to Buffalo’s $120 million. Rochester also has an unusually high number of officers per capita with 3.5 officers per 1000 residents, compared to 2.7 and 2.9 for Buffalo and Syracuse respectively.

The City is proposing this expansion of police stations as a means to foster “police community relations.” A renewed emphasis on community policing began in 2014 when Mayor Lovely Warren’s divided the city into 5 police sections, a change from the previous east-west model.

In response to the Black Lives Matter movement, community policing was offered as a measure to remedy the historic abuses of police against communities of color. But the demands for police accountability and an end to mass incarceration made by community activists are not going to be addressed by more police and police stations. Building more police stations does not address the institutional racism endemic to policing and perpetuation of poverty caused by mass incarceration.

In many cases, the community being served by “police community relations” are white gentrifiers. Recent research has uncovered a relationship between gentrification and an increase in 311 and 911 calls for “quality of life” complaints. In the Beechwood neighborhood, a police station could mean an influx of more white residents in a neighborhood that is already under threat of gentrification.

The false solution of “community police relations” has been at the center of a struggle against a $95 million police academy in Chicago. The #NoCopAcademy campaign in Chicago is a fight against the perception that more policing is somehow more important to building community than investing in resources such as community organizations, schools, healthcare and housing.

Historically, “police community relations” is touted as a solution by protectors of the status quo. Vital demands for accountability and community control of policing are ignored in favor of vague, toothless police community relations initiatives.

In Chicago, the cop academy was offered by Mayor Rahm Emanuel as a solution to the crisis of police abuse. But if Chicago truly wanted to change police behavior that led to the murder of Laquan McDonald, it would have answered the community demands to hold police officers accountable for their abuses.

Police cannot solve all concerns about public safety. Instead their should be more investment in real community-building resources. Programs like Save Our Youth and Pathways to Peace address community safety without the threat of armed force and incarceration, yet these programs get a small fraction of the funding that RPD receives. Alternatives to policing are being underfunded to the detriment of our City. Increased policing has brought an era of mass incarceration, tearing apart families and communities. How do we expect more police spending is going to solve anything?

Enough Is Enough and other organizations are coming together to fight the City’s plan to build 3 new police stations, which would amount to a $33 million increase in police spending. This is a fight against mass incarceration, displacement, gentrification, and the prison industrial complex.

Contact us if you interested in joining the fight:

There will be an informational meeting on the City’s plan on Tuesday February 5, 6-7:30pm at Open Arms Christian Fellowship Ministries, 461 Webster Ave.