• Lightfoot, Chief Hold Neighborhood Meeting on Cop Issues

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    Rochester's police chief caught an earful Monday, from people living in one of Rochester's tougher neighborhoods

    Rochester’s police chief caught an earful Monday, from people living in one of Rochester’s tougher neighborhoods. The loudest complaints — and a willingness to find solutions — came from a Monroe County lawmaker who’s dealing with his own troubles with the law.

    When police chief Jim Sheppard wanted to hear what people in the Jefferson Avenue neighborhood were thinking, he went to the barber shop. One owned by county legislator, and city firefighter, Willie Lightfoot.

    “We’ve lost some rapport that we’re hoping to rebuild,” said Lightfoot.

    The conversation was frank.

    “My only dealing with the police is negative, not positive,” said one woman.

    “When they show up, they’re coming to arrest people,” said Ricardo Adams, a longtime resident of the neighborhood.

    Sheppard heard complaints from many of those in attendance, regarding how police interact with the community.

    “Right now, people in the community are just as scared of the police as they are the hustlers out there,” said Adams. “It shouldn’t be like that.”

    Sheppard assured attendees that his top priority is to see a smooth relationship between his cops and the community.

    “For the people out there being disruptive and violent, we have to address those issues,” said Sheppard. “We’re going to be the police and take care of business. But we also have to make the people living in the neighborhoods who are on our side, let them know we’re on their side, that we got their back.”

    Lightfoot recently had his own run-in with city cops, who charged him last month with drunk driving, obstructing governmental administration and disorderly conduct. Lightfoot drove up on an investigation near his shop, and tried to intervene.

    His court case is still pending.

    Lightfoot, Chief Hold Neighborhood Meeting on Cop Issues

     

    “There’s some things I could have done differently — not getting upset by what I heard,” he said. “But there’s things the police could have done differently.”

    “When the police come around, I don’t feel friendly. I don’t feel like we’re on the same team,” said Lightfoot.

    Lightfoot and Sheppard both say the gathering at the lawmaker’s barber shop was organized months ago, before the May incident.

    I was aware of the circumstance with Willie. That will go through its process. He’s entitled to due process and it will end up where it will end up,” said Sheppard. “The fact of the matter is, he’s concerned about this community, he has been for a number of years and I think working together, we can make good things happen.”

    Sheppard says he hopes to have many more similar meetings with city residents. The chief was asked whether he thought some people’s perception of the Rochester Police Department is, in fact, reality.

    “I think in terms of perception, that is that person’s reality,” said Sheppard.

    That, says the chief, is what he hopes most to change. To get rid of the “us versus them” perception. Before leaving, Sheppard sat in a barber chair himself, receiving a shave from Lightfoot to the chief’s bald head.

    “That is my goal, to get more engaged, more involved,” said the chief.

    “I commend him for that effort, but it needs to go somewhere,” said Adams, who suggested police should walk the beat more in troubled neighborhoods, getting to know residents.

    If the chief wants a sense of how it’s all going in the neighborhood, he knows where he can go to find out.

    [Courtesy of ynn.com – Video also available]
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