Mitch Gruber

Statement on City Budget

I believe in defunding the police. Police departments should not be the highest funded department in a city like Rochester, especially when crime rates continue to decrease every year. I am committed to reimagining public safety so that armed police officers do not respond to nonviolent 911 calls, and instead  we send social workers, mental health experts, community builders and other unarmed trained professionals.

In each of the three budgets that I’ve participated in as a member of Council, I’ve argued for divesting in the police and advocated for the full funding of critical services for our community – like libraries, recreation centers, and the Police Accountability Board.

This divestment started to become a reality tonight because of the advocacy of the Black Lives Matter movement. The energy and urgency of the BLM movement has spurred real progress in defunding police departments across the nation, including right here in Rochester.

This budget – which we were legally obligated to pass this week – includes a fully funded Police Accountability Board, as well as the dollars necessary to pay for legal representation as we continue to fight the Locust Club for the right to disciplinary authority. It also includes the removal of School Resource Officers from RCSD. Most importantly, this budget marks the first time in over a decade that the police department budget shrank.

For many years, the police department has been a “sacred cow” that never saw reductions; that changed this year. In addition to cuts made by the Mayor, this Council transferred significant dollars from RPD to Recreation centers so we can offer more and better programming for our youth. Finally, we reserved $750,000 to convene a task force on reimagining police that will lead to actionable steps to transform our police department.

This is the beginning, not the end, of our work in redirecting funds from RPD to community-oriented programming. I understand the urgency around addressing all of these problems before the budget is passed, but this is not a short-term process and we could not solve it before the vote tonight. Indeed, even in the cities that are committed to defunding, like Minneapolis and San Francisco, there is a clear recognition that they will need months and months of planning before anything effective can be implemented. Our task force will research best practices and examine the work being done in places like Minneapolis and San Francisco so that we can implement holistic changes to policing effectively and expediently.

But this all leads back to a critical question I’ve been grappling with over the last few weeks – “how much will you defund the police by?” A lot of the conversations locally have been around a certain % or dollar amount – I’ve heard community requests for $10M, 30M, and 50%. Admittedly, this can and will look different from city to city. But for me the answer is not about specific dollars or %.

I want to defund any part of the RPD budget that doesn’t serve each and every member of our City. I want to reimagine policing by replacing armed officers with social workers, mental health professionals, and community builders. I want to reinvest dollars in the things that we all need in the City of Rochester. A system of libraries and recreation centers with adequate staffing and hours of operation. And a neighborhood and business development department that has enough staff in code enforcement, emergency repairs grant money, and rental assistance to ensure a high standard of living for everyone in our city.

We have begun the work of divesting in what no longer serves our City. But we have a lot of work in front of us still, and I look forward to digging in with this community and making significant changes to our budget and police department in the coming years.

Contact us:

We want to hear your thoughts!  When you have questions or ideas about how to contribute to a healthier Rochester, please reach out.
email:  Mitch.Gruber@cityofrochester.gov
office phone:  585-428-6924, City Council main phone: 585-428-7538
address:  City Hall, Room 301, 30 Church Street, Rochester, NY 14614

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