Both the City and County operate separate Civil Service functions, for the purpose of recruiting, hiring and retaining their workforces. They must operate within the rules and procedures of the NYS Civil Service system. Yet, the way the system has functioned has had disparate, inequitable and exclusionary effects on BIPOC. Past efforts to reform this antiquated system have produced very modest reforms. In the current environment, when racial disparities and structurally racist practices are being exposed and rooted out, both governments must join forces to redesign their civil service functions to ensure equitable and unobstructed access to qualified applicants, which will lead to a racially diverse workforce. They should identify other municipalities that are undergoing the same redesign and, together, petition State Government to incorporate their redesign ideas into a more diverse, equitable and accessible Civil Service system. (Job Creation)
The City and/or County should create a local process for becoming MWBE certified so that local businesses can use that as an alternative to the lengthy and cumbersome state process. In addition, the focus should be on businesses owned by people of color, as opposed to White women, who have historically benefited more from these programs than people of color. (Business Development, Job Creation)
The City and County Economic Development departments and allied agencies (e.g., REDCO and COMIDA) should work with area financial institutions (including banks and investment firms) to create a new Capital Access Program that will be targeted to local BIPOC-owned businesses with annual gross incomes of less than $100,000 and fewer than 2o employees. (Business Development)
Monroe County should raise its lowest starting wage to $15 per hour and sign the Rochester-Monroe Anti-Poverty Initiative’s Employer Pledge, which commits employers to working toward providing sustainable employment for individuals seeking to move from poverty to economic security. The City of Rochester has already signed the pledge. In addition, County and City governments should use their leadership to join RMAPI and others in persuading all employers to raise their pay to a minimum starting wage of $15, and add this minimum wage as a requirement to contracts with agencies and businesses with which it does business. Raising wages will impact tens of 59 thousands of workers of color in Monroe County who work in low-wage jobs. (Human Services, Healthcare)
Because it is a direct provider of health services and because of its direct engagement with community health providers, Monroe County should convene a working group of providers and BIPOC consumers to develop sustainable strategies to expand access to equitable living wages and equitable services across the full spectrum of health care within the County. (Healthcare)
Create/amend Land Trusts and Land Banks to include use of land for community health centers in underserved neighborhoods with high populations of BIPOC. (Healthcare)
Promote/expand the Career Pathways to Public Safety program offered by the Rochester City School District and the Police Recruit Education Program offered by Monroe Community College to firmly establish a direct pipeline for the youth of Rochester to enter the ranks of the local law enforcement. The four-year results of this program do not reflect any individuals entering policing. Promotion of these programs is needed to establish a “pipeline” into the ranks of the area police agencies and significantly improve minority representation. (Policing)
Expand programs, such as the New Visions program for RCSD students, to introduce them to healthcare professions and mentor them in applying for post-secondary certification and higher education programs that provide career exploration opportunities. This should include establishing full tuition scholarships and grants for Black, Indigenous, and People of Color who are enrolled in medical and other programs. This approach should also be used to expand or create pipelines that provide workers for a variety of systems, including criminal justice, policing, mental health and addiction services, and education. (Healthcare)
The need for increased cultural competency and responsiveness, along with anti-racism practices, was identified for several systems at both the City and County levels, by almost every working group. Given the increasing requirements that their employees must be able to effectively understand, communicate with and appropriately interact with multi-racial and multiethnic constituencies, City and County governments must undertake a series of steps to increase and sustain the cultural competence of their entire workforces. These include (1) developing a cultural competence plan with 60 designated budget resources, (2) hiring Cultural Competence Officers and Cultural Competence Managers, and (3) creating a cultural competence advisory committee. Staff development must include training for staff and contracted service providers on racism, implicit bias, and cultural and linguistic competency tied to their job roles and responsibilities. (Business Development, Criminal Justice, Education, Healthcare, Human Services, Mental Health and Addiction Services, Policing)
Local government should use contracting and procurement practices to require that all contractors to have diversity, equity, and inclusion policies in place, including diverse hiring practices, and report on their board and leadership composition annually as a condition of doing business. The County funds a large non-profit sector whose boards and senior leadership do not reflect the populations that they serve. The County and City could lead the way on such policies, especially for smaller employers without an HR capability, by providing guidance and model policies. The impact of this policy should be assessed to ensure it does not overly burden very small businesses and organizations, and adjusted if needed. (Human Services)
Create a mentoring program that matches established business persons and high school students with emerging BIPOC entrepreneurs. Mentors and mentees will work together for a minimum of 12 months on specific projects that will increase the knowledge and skills of the emerging entrepreneurs while also elevating their general level of financial readiness. High school students will benefit from the opportunity to learn a trade and develop skills that can supplement their education and count towards a diploma. Focus should be on those that have expressed interest in entrepreneurship or students who will benefit from alternative methods of learning, assessment, and curriculum. (Business Development, Education)
Create and financially support an information exchange that leads to new business opportunities for BIPOC-owned businesses. This should include a centralized language center that all Monroe County students and families can access resources in their language working in conjunction with local universities, school districts, and non-profits serving immigrant communities. (Business Development, Education)
Permanently fund the Monroe County Diversity Officer for Language Access to promote best practices and address any legal compliance issues. This should not be limited to spoken languages but should include ASL and other sign-based communication. (Education)
Amend Chapter 101 of the County Codes to require representation of BIPOC on the County Medical Advisory Council and County Medical Advisory Board and (if permitted by state law) compensate members for their service. (Healthcare)
The City of Rochester should seek to amend the 1975 Police Consent Decree, which establishes the goal of 25% minority hiring for the Police Department. As it stands, the current language of the decree will not result in a demographically reflective police department. This case is under the supervision of the US District Court of WNY. This revision will allow for an increase in the minority representation within the Rochester Police Department, to more accurately reflect the various racial demographic populations of Rochester, and to maintain this status through aggressive hiring of minorities. In order for any new recruitment outreach to be successful, the Rochester Police Department should address factors that make police work so unappealing to young African Americans. (Policing)
The following criminal justice changes are needed:
Officers in predominantly Black and Brown neighborhoods engage in a form of policing which is rarely seen in other communities. To address over-policing, Monroe County Law enforcement should end the use of pretextual stops (stops for minor offenses made to investigate other matters) and decriminalize and de-prioritize violation-level offenses.
It is recommended that Monroe County create a 24-hour arraignment for Rochester City Court, waive all county imposed fees for defendants who qualify for a public defender and fully fund the Public Defender's Office, particularly the Family Court section.
Probation and the District Attorney's office must focus their efforts on diverting individuals away from incarceration and criminal convictions. Monroe County should only use incarceration as a last resort. Probation must move away from its punitive nature and embrace a philosophy of diversion and support. The District Attorney must prioritize diversion, restorative justice and dismissals for minor offenses. Both agencies should be required to report their efforts in their annual reports. (Criminal Justice).
As needed to implement these changes, convene a task force comprised of the major players in the criminal justice system (such as the District Attorney, Public Defender, the Administrative Judge of the 7th Judicial District, the heads of local bar associations including the Black Bar Association, police chiefs, and the heads of local Criminal Justice organizations and advocacy groups) to work through issues and identify additional strategies to eliminate racial disparities in local criminal matters (arrests, prosecutions and incarceration).
Monroe County DHS maintains the highest sanction rate of the largest counties in New York (those with urban centers), and an exceptionally high rate of fair hearings requested. Monroe County should adjust internal policies to ensure that sanctions – which remove needed resources from individuals, many of whom are BIPOC – are used only as a last resort, and never as a first step. Specific strategies include amending the employment plan, reducing the attendance threshold for substance abuse treatment plans, and create both a pre-sanction review process and post-sanction support system. In addition, the County should establish a working group consisting of DHS staff, public assistance recipients, substance abuse treatment providers, and legal services providers to facilitate continuous improvement to ensure that our rate of sanction decreases dramatically while maintaining compliance with OTDA regulations. (Human Services)
Develop strategies to increase access to mental health and social emotional support services for all Rochester City School District BIPOC students, equivalent to similar services provided to students enrolled in suburban schools. In addition, school-based health centers should be created in every RCSD school. These strategies must include additional financial support to the RCSD, given its dire fiscal straits. (Education and Mental Health & Addiction Services)
There is a great lack of understanding about the pervasive and malignant influences of racism and structural inequities in society. In order to eliminate this condition, school boards in Rochester and throughout Monroe County should adopt an anti-racist curriculum. (Education)
Labeling schools as failing leads to low student affective or emotional engagement, which in turn impacts the students’ attachment to school and influences their willingness to learn. School curricula need to be revised to create engagement in order to spark learning, rather than solely focus on testing scores. Monroe County school districts must expand curriculum offerings for English Language Learners so that they have curriculum choices that are comparable to those of their counterparts. Programs aimed at assisting students and their families need to be offered in their native language. (Education)
Invest in and develop Community Behavioral Health Advocates (CBHA), a program employing local residents trained and certified to assist people with advocacy, offer help to connect with and navigate behavioral health services, identify distressed persons who need services before emergencies occur, and provide low-complexity therapeutic interventions, as appropriate. (Mental Health and Addiction Services)
As well, additional mental health clinicians in the region – particularly those serving low-income residents who rely on Medicaid – should be a top priority to address the extremely limited availability of high-quality mental health and addiction services for people of color and low-income people. Primary, specialist and preventive healthcare services should be similarly expanded. (Mental Health and Addiction Services, and Healthcare)
To address the disproportionate arrest of Black and Latinx residents, the City of Rochester and Monroe County should create and adequately fund community alternatives to police. The cases of George Floyd and Daniel Prude, and so many others, makes it clear that armed police officers are not the appropriate party to respond to non-violent crimes and mental health crises. Instead, the City and County must build off of the work of the Forensic Intervention Team and Person in Crisis Team to create more alternatives to traditional policing that utilize trained community responders, crisis intervention specialist and mediators. 911 should analyze calls for service over the last 5 years to understand patterns for calls for service in order to determine the appropriate amount of funding to reallocate. Considering that 66% of crimes in Rochester are misdemeanors, funds diverted from RPD must be significant. As the City and County begin to decrease the size of police departments and increase the size of crisis intervention units, there must be a priority to hire Black and Latinx community members. (Criminal Justice)
Develop a Community Center for Restorative Justice and Court Diversion (“CCRJCD”), with the mission of embedding restorative justice and alternatives to incarcerations into our criminal justice system. This center should have satellite offices located within neighborhoods. CCRJCD will provide an alternative to the punitive justice system and will be grounded in the principals of rehabilitation, restorative justice and desistance theory of behavior change. It is crucial that these diversion efforts do not contain eligibility requirements based on prior criminal records; such requirements result in diversion programs that simply mimic the racial disparities seen in the traditional system. This center could be funded by shifting resources from the Monroe County Jail, Rochester Police Department and the Department of Probation. Restorative justice practices should be adopted in schools throughout Monroe County as well. (Criminal Justice, Education)
Justice-involved youth have few alternatives to detention. Monroe County must invest in a community-based program for youth facing criminal charges. This program should include: counseling and mentorship, restorative justice circles, case managers who create a comprehensive plan with parents and 64 youth, respite services, and a forensic psychiatric specialist equipped to handle youth with complex mental health issues. Youth with severe diagnoses such as schizophrenia must not be placed in a detention facility unequipped to meet their needs.
To address the fact that Black and Latinx children in Monroe County are placed in foster care homes in significantly higher numbers than any other demographic, Monroe County must redesign services to do more to keep these children with their families. Strategies include implementing blind removal meetings, hiring culture brokers, and developing kinship navigators. The County must also provide consistency in case workers and in the application of federal laws like the Multi-Ethnic Placement Act and the Interethnic Adoptions Provisions law. (Human Services)
Create interconnectedness between mental health and addiction services as they are often unaligned and disconnected. Misalignment exacerbates and prolongs racial and ethnic inequities in access to mental health and addiction services. Assure that current County and City initiatives regarding mental health emergency response services are fully integrated, i.e., one emergency response system, not two. (Mental Health and Addiction Services)
Decentralize Monroe County Department of Public Health services and put locations in neighborhoods with high populations of BIPOC; this can be implemented through community schools, which is a current initiative of RCSD and ROC the Future. (Healthcare, Education)
Local police agencies should be mandated to collect and regularly report on a quarterly basis demographic information of all individuals they interact with in arrests, traffic investigations, street stops, and uses of force. Furthermore, we recommend the demographic information be collected and regularly reported for personnel complaints, also on a quarterly basis. We further recommend this data be included in their annual reports and, relative to the Rochester Police Department, be included on their Open Data Portal, entered into their TRACS system, and sent to the Rochester Police Accountability Board. If other local police agencies develop similar civilian oversight processes, we recommend this data be sent to their board for review. (Policing)
The County should work with the local organization Measures for Justice to create a criminal justice data portal that includes local data from police agencies, District Attorney, Public Defenders, Probation and the court system. Data should include, but not be limited to, plea offers, final dispositions, technical violations, and the race of defendants and attorneys, whether they are public defenders or private attorneys. (Criminal Justice)
Create a racial justice task force comprised of the major players in the criminal justice system and community members (such as the District Attorney, Public Defender, the Administrative Judge of the 7th Judicial District, the heads of local bar associations including the Black Bar Association, and the heads of local Criminal Justice organizations and advocacy groups), This Taskforce should meet on a quarterly basis to review local criminal justice data and identify additional strategies to eliminate racial disparities in local criminal matters (arrests, prosecutions and incarceration). School-age students should also receive attention in this process with a focus on ending the school-to-prison pipeline. (Criminal Justice, Education)
In order to address inequities in the greater Rochester housing market, the City and County should take the following steps:
Work with housing developers and financial institutions to increase the supply of quality affordable housing for BIPOC individuals who are seeking to own their homes, and for persons for whom renting is their preferred option.
Identify and develop strategies to correct all of the impediments that have historically kept Black and other people of color from fully participating in the local housing market, including redlining, exclusion from incentives that increase homeownership, and land-use policies that prescribe housing types that keep BIPOC out of the markets. In order to meet these objectives, the City and County will engage with persons who directly influence the development of these markets and with BIPOC consumers who have been adversely impacted by the way these markets have been developed. Together, they will develop the criteria for new markets that are equitable, inclusive and free of racial bias.
The County Legislature should incentivize affordable housing development in all communities within Monroe County. The County should encourage affordable housing county-wide, with consideration to which locations could best provide access to economic and educational opportunities.
Adopt new tenant protections, such as right to counsel in eviction proceedings, “just cause” eviction mandate, and a local fair housing statute that enables local jurisdictions to prosecute individuals or organizations in violation of fair housing practices.
Enact a Tenant Opportunity to Purchase law in Rochester. This type of program would provide an opportunity for rental tenants, qualified housing nonprofits or some combination to assemble funds to purchase a rental property if an owner offers it for sale.
Advocate for a public bank that can be used to support affordable housing efforts as well as credit unions that produce mortgages for low-income homebuyers. A public banking bill has been introduced in the state Senate.
Establish a policy for the City of Rochester that would require banks to submit annual reports to the city that detail the programs and products they have offered to meet the community’s credit needs, and a plan for what they will offer in the future. Pending the establishment of a policy, the City will evaluate the banks’ performance based on the reports submitted by the banks. (Housing)
The issues of racial discrimination and systemic inequities have hit BIPOC older adults harder than other groups in this demographic. Their problems range from increasing rates of poverty, lack of affordable health care, limited access to nutritious food, inaccessibility to transportation, a dire shortage of quality, affordable housing to all of the implications of the digital divide. Local governments must effectively engage the not-for-profit providers of services for these older citizens, and their advocates, to redesign a more equitable and bias-free delivery system across the full spectrum of services. Specifically, local government should support and invest in the Livable Communities for Older Adults Initiative. The Livable Communities approach will provide a broad and coordinated platform for all those involved in services to older adults in which to participate. Implementation of Livable Communities proposals should include the establishment of representative and diverse advisory boards with significant oversight responsibilities. (Human Services)
Address the funding disparity between suburban and urban senior centers. Funding to senior centers in urban areas is based on meal volume annually. There is a clear differential between suburban and urban centers analogous to the disparities in local school districts. Towns are able to supplement Federal and state dollars. (Human and Social Services)
To ensure accountability, Community Behavioral Health Advocates (CBHA) should be constituted as a separate, independent local organization with an executive director selected by a diverse community board, which would carefully ally with local health providers and coordinate with the County OMH. (Mental Health and Addiction Services)
Create a number of City-County Accountability Committees/Boards, comprised of diverse consumer, non-governmental organizations, and professional membership, for monitoring system initiatives to overcome barriers to care based on structure, race, or ability to pay. While this recommendation emanates from the Mental Health and Addiction Services working group, this approach should be used for a number of the systems studied during this process.
Establish a County-wide ombudsperson office where residents can report discrimination in healthcare (whether provided by the County or private healthcare systems) and receive assistance in filing complaints with the NYS Commission on Human Rights. The office should have a Community Advisory Board with requirements that members include BIPOC and representatives from other marginalized groups who (if permitted by state law) are compensated for their service. (Healthcare)
Create a municipal health care access program that guarantees affordable healthcare for any uninsured county resident that does not qualify for another healthcare plan, regardless of immigration status, income level, or preexisting conditions. (Healthcare)
Amend Section 63 of City Charter to add healthcare to the list of areas in which discrimination is prohibited. (Healthcare)
The final interviews for police candidates should be expanded to include representatives from the community as interviewers, including interviewers from diverse racial and ethnic backgrounds. (Policing)
Amend Zoning Codes, Incentive Zoning, and Planned Development Districts to support development of grocery stores, pharmacies, community health centers, primary and specialist care, recreational green space, and fitness centers in neighborhoods with high racial health disparities. (Healthcare)
In addition to the cultural competency training recommended for all city and county departments above, additional training is recommended for police officers of local departments. A recent study entitled “Procedural Justice Training Reduces Police Use of Force and Complaints against Officers” shows that procedural justice training reduced police use of force and complaints against officers in the Chicago Police Department. The NYS basic Course for Police Officer requires only 5 hours diversity for certification. It is recommended that this requirement is significantly increased to include cultural competency training, implicit and explicit bias training, Procedural Justice training and historical aspects of policing training. Additionally, the New York state Division of Criminal Justice Services (DCJS) has developed a 32-hour program titled Principled Policing which focuses on Procedural Justice and Implicit Bias instruction. It is recommended that it be used as the foundation for the recommended increase in cultural competency training and include all previously mentioned training subjects. (Policing)