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City of Rochester

History of the Rochester Police Department

The roots of the Rochester Police Department can be traced back to March 21, 1817, when a growing mill town carved out of the western New York forests became the oldphoto2village of Rochesterville. The charter of this new village allowed for a constable. The first night watch was decided upon on December 28, 1819, thus making the birth of the Rochester Police Department.


Stimulated by the Erie Canal and the railroad, Rochesterville continued to grow. In 1834, it was incorporated as the City of Rochester. The year 1853 marked the hiring of the first Police Chief, Addy Van Slyck, whose salary was $900 per year. Rochester became a leader in law enforcement and technology. By the end of the Civil War in 1865, the night watchmen and constables were reorganized into the "Metropolitan Police". Chief Joseph Cleary introduced telegraphic "call boxes" in the 1880's, which were later replaced with telephones. Mounted and bicycle patrols were added in the next decade; the Betrillon System of identification was adopted in 1903; and formal recruiting began in 1904. 

 Police cars and motorcycles were introduced after 1913, along with traffic signals and traffic tickets. Mobilepict3 police radios were acquired in 1931, traffic radar in 1952, and the Police Academy opened its doors in 1953. Police officers were hired through political appointment until New York State enacted the Civil Service Law in 1900. After that point, the professionalism of the service increased, as officers were selected and promoted through competitive examination and received increased job security and retirement benefits. The first female officer, Nellie McElroy, was hired in 1913, becoming only the ninth policewoman in the nation.

Today, the Rochester Police Department serves a community of approximately 230,000 people and an area of over 37 square miles. Chief James M. Sheppard leads an agency of over 850 sworn and non-sworn employees, who are dedicated to fair and impartial enforcement of the law and improving the quality of life for the citizens of Rochester.

The Rochester Police Department is recognized in New York State as a leading law enforcement agency. Department members are proud of the high quality of service they provide and their continuous pursuit of excellence.


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