By DAVY VARA
It’s the Rochester Police department’s latest desperate attempt to gain the trust and respect of Rochester’s African-American and Latino community.
In referring to the billboards, which feature titles such as “We’ve Got Your Back”, and “On The Same Team”, as well as actual R.P.D. officers, Chief Sheppard said, “We’re trying to get the message out to the Rochester community that the R.P.D., one, has their back. We want them to have faith in us. The other message we’re trying to send is to youth. To let them know we’re on the same team. We don’t want them looking at us as the enemy.”
The billboard campaign is expected to last about two months, and Chief Sheppard says he hopes to get feedback from the community.
Well Chief, here is my feedback. It’s going to take alot more than a few cheesy, corny billboards to gain not only the trust, but also the respect of African-Americans and Latinos in Rochester. You can put up billboards at every intersection if you’d like Chief, you can even try to bring back “Officer Friendly”,who many elementary shool children looked up to in the 1980’s when he would visit city schools and talk about safety, but that’s not going to cut it. You can talk the talk the talk, but are you willing to walk the walk Chief?
Until you, the head of the R.P.D., truly take REAL accountability for your rogue officers who are out here abusing their power, and violating the oath they took to “serve and protect”, by abusing innocent minorities ever single day, nothing will change. No matter how many billboards you put up.
Your department has a long history of misconduct and corruption, and billboards are not going to magically erase that. Instead of putting billboards up, if you are truly interested in gaining the community’s respect and trust, then take REAL action Chief. Address the many “problem officers” in your department. Stand up and go on record denouncing abuse by any member of your force. And CLEAN HOUSE!
With these billboards, you are actually doing a disservice to what you claim is your goal, and interest: Gaining the respect and trust of the community. Think about it, what do you think that an innocent youth is going to think, when minutes after they are harassed and/or abused by one of your officers, he or she sees one of your billboards which read: “We’ve Got Your Back” ?
What do you think an innocent family whose home has just been broken into, without a warrant, by your rogue overzealous officers, and then are left with their meager belongings in shambles, detroyed by your boys, what do you think they are going to think when they see a billboard which reads: “On The Same Team” ? Nice try Chief.
Perhaps, I’ll start my own campaign: Let’s see… how should the billboards look? I got it! The billboards would feature photos of unarmed innocent African-Americans shot and killed by Rochester Police officers. Faces like Calvin Greene, Vandy Davis, Craig Heard, and Lawrence Rogers.
Although these killings by Rochester Police officers did not occur under Chief Sheppard’s watch, we will never forget these innocent victims, whose lives were cut short by overzealous, trigger happy, white R.P.D. cops.
Under their faces, the billboard title would read: “What Do They All Have In Common ? … All African-American. All Unarmed. All Killed By The Rochester Police Department!”
When I think of 14 year old Craig Heard, an unarmed African-American teen, scared for his life, cornered in a dead end street, and shot twice in the head and killed by Rochester Police officers Serge Savitcheff and Hector Padgham, I wonder what Craig Heard would say about an R.P.D. billboard that read: “We’ve Got Your Back”?
Respect is earned. To get respect, you have to give respect. And it doesn’t start with billboards Chief. It starts on the streets. It starts with your officers.
Officers like Kevin Mack, who chose to create then escalate a completely unnecessary situation on Dayton Street on a cold January day in 2009. Kevin Mack had a choice. When Mack came in contact with 14 year old Tyquan Rivera, a troubled young man, he could have made it a positive experience. He could have treated that young man with respect. He should have realized that as a police officer, and as an adult, he could have made a positive impression in the life of this young man, but he chose not to.
Instead, Kevin Mack chose to abuse his power, by humiliating and putting his hands on a child, and as a result, Kevin Mack created and escalated a completely unnecessary situation and a chain of events which ultimately led to this troubled young man running in his house and shooting Anthony DiPonzio, an innocent officer.
Chief Sheppard, you just don’t get it do you?