Rochester Police Department
MottoServing With Pride
Agency overview
FormedDecember 28, 1819[1]
Preceding agency
  • Metropolitan Police[1]
Annual budgetDecrease 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
Operational structure
Headquarters185 Exchange Boulevard, Rochester
Police OfficersDecrease 728 (2018–2019)[2]: 9–4 
Unsworn membersDecrease 124 (2018–2019)[2]: 9–4 
Agency executive
  • David Smith, Chief of Department[3]
UnitsPatrol Division East
Patrol Division West
Special Operations Division
Patrol Division East
Patrol Division West
Animal Control Center
Special Operations Division

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.[4]


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.[5]: 64 

In 1893, the department established a bicycle division consisting of two officers who apprehended a daily average of 25 "scorchers" (speeders).[5]: 54  The department fielded a mounted division in 1895—officers were expected to supply their own horses.[5]: 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).[5]: 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.[5]: 62 

The department's first African-American officer, Charles Price, was hired in 1947.[6] Price retired in 1985 as a police captain and passed away on May 17, 2021.[7]

Since the establishment of the Rochester Police Department, 14 officers have died in the line of duty.[8]

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.[9] 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.[10] 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.[11] 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.[12] 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.[13] 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.[14]

Controversy and 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 made the final decisions on all complaints.[15]

In 2019, voters approved plans to create a civilian Police Accountability Board that replaced the previous review board. The new nine-member board functions as an independent city office with the purpose of investigating officer misconduct. It has additional resources that its predecessor lacked, such as subpoena power and ability to discipline officers.[16] A New York State Supreme Court ruling in March 2020 struck down the board’s proposed discipline powers after a lawsuit was filed by the Rochester Police Locust Club, the city police union. The City Council filed an appeal of the decision, but no action has occurred yet.[17]

Police shootings

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Police shootings
Shooting victim Victim's age Shooting date Officer(s) involved Outcome for victim Outcome for officer
Juliano Anthony Plaza [18] 23 December 15, 2014 Cynthia I. Muratore Initially in guarded condition, made full recovery and appeared in court.[19] Later promoted to Investigator
Thomas Johnson III[20] 38 September 3, 2014 Darryl Pierson, Michael DiPaola Convicted of the murder of 32-year old Daryl R. Pierson, an 8-year veteran of the Rochester Police Department. Pierson was murdered by Johnson.

DiPaola found justified in his actions.[clarification needed]

Ralph Strong "Irak" 24 July 27, 2013 Lt. Zenelovic, Charles Gorman, Officers Matt Balch, and Daniel Rizzo Shot multiple times; survived and convicted of two murders. Officers praised by Mayor Richardson and Police Chief Shepard for conduct.
Israel "Izzy" Andino [21] 20 June 21, 2012 Sgt. Aaron Colletti, Sgt. Mike Nicholls, Antonio Gonzalez, Brian Cala, Greg Karnes, Onasis Socol, and Eluid Rodriguez Death Deemed justified by Grand Jury
Hayden Blackman [22] 43 October 13, 2011 Randy Book Death Deemed justified by Grand Jury
Miguel Cruz 21 March 1, 2010 Daniel Santiago Survived Deemed justified by Grand Jury
Jose Luis Casado 19 2008 Ryan Hickey Shot in leg; Sentenced to life in prison for firing at police Praised by Police Chief David Moore for his conduct.
Patricia Thompson [23] 54 March 2, 2006 Jeffrey J. Lafave Death Deemed justified by Grand Jury
LaShedica Mason 13 July 10, 2005 Mark Simmons Survived; gall bladder and part of her intestine had to be removed. Promoted to Sergeant and Special Assistant to Chief James Sheppard.
Willie Carter 46 August 15, 2002 n/a Death Deemed justified by Grand Jury
Craig Heard 14 June 10, 2002 Serge Savitcheff and Hector Padgham Death Padgham goes to Greece, New York Police Department; Savitcheff goes to Fairport, New York Police Department.
Vandre "Vandy" Davis 21 2001 David Gebhardt Death Promoted to Lieutenant
Calvin Greene 30 1988 Gary E. Smith Death

Officer Smith was suspended without pay. Then-Rochester Police Chief Gordon F. Urlacher said departmental charges would be filed against Officer Smith. He declined to specify what the charges would be. Ultimate resolution unclear.[24]

James Geil 24 October 12, 1985 Allen J. Luccitti Survived Pleaded guilty to Department use of firearms [clarification needed] and was suspended for 31 days.
Louis Davila 17 September 30, 1985 Carlos Perez Death Unknown
Kenneth Jackson 25 November 16, 1984 Ceferino Gonzalez Death Unknown
Hiawatha Franklin n/a May 8, 1979 Harold Dack Death Unknown
Denise Hawkins[25] 18 November 11, 1975 Michael Leach Death Promoted to Captain
Ronald Frazier[26] 19 1975 James Soles Death Unknown
Unidentified "negro motorist" [27][28] n/a July 25, 1967 n/a Death Unknown

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 [29]

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.[29] [30][31]

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.[32][33][34] 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.[34] According to Rochester Police, there are more than 100 surveillance cameras and 25 red light cameras throughout the city as of May 2012.[34]

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.[citation needed] Most notable instance was the 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,[35][36][37] 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,[38] 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."[39] 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.[40]

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.[41] In the end twelve people were arrested, two were hospitalized for their injuries sustained from police. The severe police response drew massive public outcry.[42] 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 [43]

Although Rochester police promised a full report on incident,[44][45] 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.[46] Police claim protesters were blocking the street and refused to move,[47][48] but videos from the march indicate that many protesters were arrested while walking on the sidewalk.

Killing of Daniel Prude

The encounter of Daniel Prude with Rochester Police officers on March 23, 2020, and his subsequent death on March 30, sparked intense national criticism of the agency, for a nearly six-month delay in suspending the officers involved, city and department leaders withholding information from the public, and for an aggressive police response to protests.

Officers located a missing Prude—disturbed, naked and in the middle of the street at 3 am—placing him into handcuffs, which he complied to. Prude, suffering from a mental health episode, tries to stand and several officers used restraining techniques to control him. Within several minutes, he goes from fully conscious and alert, to being without a pulse and not breathing.[49] While his heartbeat was restored by paramedics, he was functionally brain-dead, and when disconnected from life support one week later, pronounced dead. The Monroe County Medical Examiner ruled his death a homicide, with "complications from asphyxia in the setting of physical restraint", excited delirium and PCP intoxication listed as factors.[50]

On September 2, the Prude family and their attorneys publicly announced Daniel Prude's death and released obtained body-camera footage that depicted the events of March 23.[51] Police never disclosed or publicly acknowledged the event until after his family did so.[52] Police Chief La'Ron Singletary strongly denied any cover-up by Rochester Police.

Officers involved in Prude's death were suspended with pay, as required by law, by the Mayor on September 4.[53] On September 5, New York State Attorney General Leticia James announced creation of a grand jury to investigate his death.[54]

Protests started on September 2, and continued many days afterwards. Police repeatedly clashed with protesters, facing further scrutiny for crowd control tactics used on multiple nights that escalated tensions.[55] City Hall, the Public Safety Building, and two police substations have been locations of marches and protests.[56]

Protesters marched and assembled at police barricades surrounding city buildings the evenings of Sept 2 through the 5th. Crowds were dispersed multiple nights in a row through use of tear gas, pepper spray, pepper balls, an LRAD and flash bangs after some in the crowds threw objects including rocks, fireworks and water bottles at officers.[57]

The protest organizers have repeatedly called for the resignation of Police Chief La'Ron Singletary, who initially refused; and Mayor Lovely Warren.[58] Protesters demanded that involved officers be fired, criminally prosecuted, and barred from future police employment.[59]

On September 8, Police Chief Singletary and the entire command staff announced their retirements from their police department positions.[60] Singletary was then fired by Mayor Lovely Warren on September 14, prior to his planned departure on Sept 29. Three Deputy Police Chiefs departed, one retiring, the other two returning to their previous ranks as Lieutenant and Captain. Two Commanders also departed, one retiring and one returning to previous rank of Lieutenant.[61]

A grand jury declined to issue any indictments against the seven officers involved in Daniel Prude’s death, after being announced by Attorney General Leticia James on February 23.[62] James said that although she respects the grand jury decision, she was extremely disappointed, feeling there was sufficient evidence for officers to be charged following an investigation by her office.[63] She noted several recommendations for changes in state law and department policy, regarding police response to mental health calls, de-escalation training for officers, and the use of spit hood alternatives.

January 2021 Avenue B incident

On January 29, 2021, Rochester police responding to a domestic dispute found a 9-year-old girl in crisis. They handcuffed her and shouted, "You're acting like a child." Officers then placed the girl in a squad car and pepper-sprayed her while she was still handcuffed. Sixteen minutes of bodycam footage of the incident were released on February 1, 2021.[64]

Handcuffing of EMT

On July 11, 2022, RPD investigator Charles LoTempio was involved in an incident with Monroe Ambulance's emergency medical technician Lekia Smith at Strong Memorial Hospital in Rochester.[65][66] WHEC-TV reported that the incident arose from the investigator parking his unmarked police car in the ambulance bay in front of the emergency room of the hospital, which was followed by the EMT opening her ambulance door to unload a patient from the ambulance, causing the ambulance door to hit the police car.[67][68] WHEC-TV further reported that when the investigator asked the EMT to identify herself, the EMT insisted on bringing her patient into the hospital before doing so.[67] Surveillance footage[69] showed that the EMT had brought the patient into the hospital and was checking in the patient at the check-in desk, which was followed by the investigator pushing the EMT against the desk, handcuffing her and bringing her out of the hospital.[66][70][71] Body camera video then showed the investigator putting the handcuffed EMT in his police car, where she remained for twenty minutes; during this time the investigator told the EMT: "How was I abusing my power? You got to give me your license when the police tell you, if you don’t, you get arrested."[68][72] Ultimately, the investigator uncuffed and released the EMT, and no charges were filed against the EMT.[68][72] The EMT suffered minor injuries as a result of the incident.[73]

As a result of the incident, the investigator was first placed on administrative duty, and later on July 18, RPD announced that the investigator had been suspended with pay, pending investigation.[71][74] The police union of Rochester criticized the suspension, claiming that the incident "reached a mutually acceptable resolution that day" when "both accepted each other’s explanations" for their actions; the EMT's lawyer responded that the union was providing a "jaw-dropping" lie as the investigator and EMT "never came to any agreement".[71] RPD investigated the incident and found that LoTempio violated RPD rules and regulations.[73][75]

A Rochester Democrat and Chronicle review of records showed that RPD investigator Charles LoTempio received a 30-day suspension for excessive force and submitting an erroneous report in 2013, when he struck a handcuffed suspect with a metal flashlight, and failed to report that this strike occurred because LoTempio was trying to punch the suspect's chin.[76] It also showed that LoTempio was officially reprimanded for conducting a strip search on a suspect without a warrant in 2012, while also receiving a note on his record that he committed a "failure to execute a command order" in 2012.[76] LoTempio has also been sued fives times in federal court over alleged misconduct.[77]


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

Operations Bureau

The Operations Bureau consists of two divisions:[78]

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:[79]

Administration Bureau

The Administration Bureau comprises:



As of February 2010, 85% (744) of the police force were white, 13% (113) black, 11% (94) Latino, and 2% (16) Asian. 76% (672) were men while 24% (209) were women. 85% (753) of the officers were non-residents, while 15% (128) were residents of the city of Rochester.[80]

RPD Demographics[80][81]
Race RPD % City %
White 85% 38%
Black 13% 42%
Latino 11% 16%
Asian 2% 3%
Native American 0% 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.[82]

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.[83]

Currently,[when?] 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


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Further reading