History of the Rochester Police Department

The roots of the Rochester Police Department serving the City of Rochester, NY, can be traced back to March 21, 1817, when a growing mill town carved out of the forests of western New York along the Genesee River became the oldphoto2Village of Rochesterville. The charter of this new village allowed for the appointment of a constable. The first night watch was decided upon on December 28, 1819, thus marking the beginnings of the Rochester Police Department.


Stimulated by the Erie Canal and western railroad expansion, Rochesterville continued to grow into a major manufacturing center. In 1834, Rochesterville was incorporated as the City of Rochester. In 1853, Addy Van Slyck was named Rochester's first police chief. Rochester soon 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 a "Metropolitan Police" bureau. Police Chief Joseph Cleary introduced telegraphic "call boxes" in the 1880's, which were to be later replaced with telephones. Police bicycle and mounted horseback patrols were added within the next decade, the Bertillon System of police identification and measurement was adopted in 1903, and a formal police recruiting process began in 1904. 

After 1913, police cars and motorcycles were introduced to coincide with the installation of traffic signals and traffic enforcement, including the issuance of traffic tickets. Mobilepict3 police radios were first used in 1931, traffic radar detection units were acquired in 1952, and the Police Academy opened its doors in 1953. Initially, police officers were hired through political appointment. In 1900, New York State enacted its Civil Service Law and the professionalism of police service increased. Police officers were selected and promoted through competitive civil service examination, as well as receiving increased job security and retirement benefits for their service. The first female officer, Nellie McElroy, was hired in 1913, becoming only the ninth policewoman in the nation at that time.

Today, the Rochester Police Department serves a community of over 210,500 people within a total geographical area of 37.1 square miles. City of Rochester Police Chief Michael L. Ciminelli leads an agency of over 850 sworn and non-sworn employees dedicated to the fair and impartial enforcement of laws, while improving the quality of life for the City and citizens of Rochester.

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