Local Law Enforcement Rejects New County Law Criminalizing Behavior that ‘Annoys’ Police

Rochester Police Chief La'Ron Singletary told officers today not to enforce the law.

Rochester Police Chief La'Ron Singletary told officers today not to enforce the law. Raymond Wambsgans/Flickr

 

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Local law enforcement leaders in Monroe County, New York said Wednesday they won't arrest people for annoying their officers, rejecting a new law signed on Monday.

While a new local law would allow police in Monroe County, New York to arrest people who “annoy” or “alarm” them, law enforcement on Wednesday said they won’t arrest anyone under the charge. 

The passage of the anti-harassment measure in Monroe County, which includes the city of Rochester, was met with immediate protests from activists, county legislators, and city councilmembers, who called it vague and likely unconstitutional. It wasn’t until Wednesday, however, that local law enforcement took a public stance on the issue. 

Monroe County Sheriff Todd Baxter said in a statement that his department already enforces state laws that protect first responders. "This is a solution to a problem that does not exist… After careful analysis and discussion with union leadership, I have decided no member of the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office shall make an arrest for violation of this law," Baxter said. 

Rochester Police Chief La'Ron Singletary similarly told his officers not to enforce the law. "Upon the advice of the city's Corporation Counsel, members of the Rochester Police Department shall not make any arrests for violation of this law or take any other actions to enforce this law at present due to pending legal review," Singletary said.

Jim VanBrederode, the president of the Monroe County Chiefs of Police Association, said in a statement that all local chiefs agreed two weeks ago not to enforce the law. However, the only police chief to publicly express opposition to the measure before it was signed into law was David Catholdi, who leads the force in Brighton, a nearby suburb of Rochester. 

Monroe County Legislator Karla Boyce, one of the bill’s sponsors, previously had said law enforcement expressed support for the measure. “It is my hope that this local law will foster an environment in Monroe County that respects police officers and first responders while they are working,” Boyce said in a statement. 

Rev. Lewis Stewart, president of the United Christian Leadership Ministries of western New York, had said his organization planned to bring a lawsuit against the county over the law, which he feared could be used in particular against communities of color.

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Emma Coleman is the assistant editor for Route Fifty.

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