Dear Answer Man: I feel like recently I've been seeing Rochester police officers everywhere, and it's not just fighting crime. They are making pizza. Playing board games. Helping kids shop for presents. What gives? Are taxpayers footing the bill for these events in employee salaries or are these uniformed officers donating their time?
Dear Reader: One of the Answer Man's minions posed this question to Rochester Police Chief Jim Franklin, who wrote in answer that it depended on the event, staffing levels, and who’s attending.
"Often, again depending on the event, it’s usually a mix of personnel that are on-duty, cops that are volunteering, and some that are being paid to plug into the event," Franklin wrote.
The Rochester Police Department is made up of multiple units, and one of them is directly related to engaging with the community – the Community Action Team (CAT). The team's core function is outreach, engagement and "connectedness."
Franklin said those officers assigned to CAT would be on the clock, plugging into the event as part of their duties.
The goal in these events isn't just to have fun, but be part of a larger effort to build trust and relationships with the public, which, in turn, can help lead to a reduction in crime.
Citing the May 2015 final report of The President’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing, Franklin wrote that the report offers a road map for law enforcement agencies guiding them into the future.
"Trust between [Law Enforcement] agencies and the people they serve and protect is essential. Each and every community event that RPD has participated in has helped foster healthy community conversations and promote public safety within this community," Franklin wrote. "This is part and parcel of our law enforcement strategy that emphasizes the systematic use of community engagement, partnerships, and problem-solving techniques to proactively address conditions that cultivate crime and social disorder."
Also promoting community ...
I haven't seen the Second Street waving guy in a while. Is everything OK with him? — Passing Motorist
Dear Motorist: What a kind question. Joe Johnson, as the waving guy is known in real life, has been hospitalized since Friday having his gall bladder removed. Since then, some additional complications have kept him laid up.
That's all according to his Facebook page, "Second Street Waving Guy." You can go there and send him your words of support. Hopefully he'll be back on the curb soon, dressed for the elements and waving an American flag and a Pepsi. Rochester wouldn't be the same without him.