Republican mayoral hopefuls for Rochester, Indiana do Law and Order Q & A

The Rochester Sentinel

(Round 1 focused on management and is here.)

Sentinel questions and answers: Law and order edition

Rochester Mayor Mark Smiley, a two-term incumbent, faces Republican primary challenges from Dave Fincher and Ted Denton. The vote will take place on May 5. The candidates responded to the following Sentinel questions.

The GOP winner will face unopposed Democrat Dick Roe Nov. 3. (Roe lost to Smiley by 27 votes in 2011.)

QUESTION 1: What is your sense of how the Rochester Police Department relates to the public? Not aggressive enough? Just about right? Too aggressive?

QUESTION 2: Please respond to this statement: Dave Finchers arrest on charges related to alleged marijuana possession should not disqualify him from office. Lots of people in Rochester have done what he is accused of and they are good people who contribute to our community.

QUESTION 3: Please respond to this statement: Id like to see our police stage more activities like Operation Pullover because they help keep our roads and community safe.

Mark Smiley

# 1 Public Safety is the most important responsibility a mayor has and I take that responsibility very seriously. As Mayor, I am continually working with the Police and Fire Chief to improve and refine public safety in our community. A safe community is important for not only the quality of life in Rochester, but also for the economic development in our city.

Our officers are doing a great job to insure our public safety. Are the officers perfect, no but we are all working together to improve. I think we can agree that the Rochester Police Department is better equipped, better trained, and more community friendly than when I first took office. We are all working together to balance the safety of the people, the safety of our police officers, and the public perception of the department. The officers do their jobs, do them well, and are part of a team that makes Rochester a great place to live and work. I am proud of the Police Department whom serve our community with dedication and professionalism, while at times, putting their life on the line. I am dedicated to listening to the community and doing my part to help improve this department in the future.

#2 As mayor, you represent the constituents of your community, but just as importantly, you represent your city to other communities in Indiana. The mayor is also the most important contact that potential businesses want to meet when relocating to the area. Businesses may judge Rochester on their impression and integrity of the chief executive. Elected officials whom you must work closely with to accomplish your community’s goals, will form their opinion of our community based on the reputation of the mayor. Right or wrong, the mayor’s reputation and integrity affects the city’s reputation as well.

Regardless of anything that has happened with other candidates, I believe I am the best candidate to represent Rochester. I have the education, the experience, and the energy to help our city continue to move forward. We have made great strides over the past 7 years as new businesses have moved to Rochester, as the City Budget has been trimmed, and as we have improved our aging infrastructure and equipment. I hope that you will give me the opportunity to continue representing our city with integrity, not only in Rochester, but throughout Indiana and the business community as well.

# 3 Operation Pullover (funded by the Federal Government) is just one of the many initiatives we have continued over the past 7 years. Since I was appointed Mayor the philosophy of the department has shifted from simply reacting to situations, to one of being proactive in crime and dangerous driving prevention.

Downtown foot patrols have been implemented on every shift, so that the community and our officers get to know one another and there is a very visible and personal police presence downtown. The department has purchased police bicycles to help respond to the needs of our community and will become more visible as the department gets fully staffed. We totally support the safety of our children in our school system, by communicating with the public safety office station at Rochester High School. Currently, we are working with other area police agencies to form a mufti- jurisdictional drug task force. My goal is to make our community as free from drugs as possible, so that Rochester will remain a safe place to live.

Recently, we finished the first women’s handgun safety class, to make sure some of those that own handguns know how to handle them safely and properly.

For the safety of the officers and the community, we have placed body cameras on every officer; being one of the first communities in the state to do so. We now have cameras monitoring some of our most important infrastructure and public areas in our city.

I want to use every tool possible, to keep Rochester a safe city. While we have done so much over the past 7 years, we are not finished yet. We will continue to be proactive as we learn new methods and find new opportunities for the Rochester Police Department to better serve our city.

Ted Denton

#1 Since the start of my campaign a year ago I have heard numerous stories from citizens of complaints and of legal actions taken against the City as the result of Police practices that, in the public’s opinion, were “Too Aggressive”. This has been a topic for the current administration going clear back to the last mayoral debate in October of 2011.

A police officer can be a very difficult and dangerous profession and I hold anyone who chooses this profession in high regard. With that said; A successful police officer in my administration would be one who clearly understands that the most important piece of equipment he or she carries around daily is what they have between their ears NOT what is strapped to their hip. Officers who are respectful, courteous, professional in their actions and appearance and who work by the motto “To Protect And To Serve.” By the way, this famous motto would be put back on every police car and discussed weekly in my administration as well as officers dressing to look like the professionals the community expects them to be and not like paramilitary. Our officers would be told regularly that they are a huge part of economic development as an out of town visitor’s only personal contact going through Rochester could be with a police officer and they definitely remember how they are left and talk about it when they reach home.

As I have stated before, the problem is not the police. It is management. The group takes on the personality of its leadership, in every organization.

#2 Let’s not miss the point of this issue. Marijuana is an illegal drug and Dave Fincher is wanting to become the mayor of Rochester. The mayor takes an oath of office to uphold and enforce the laws of the state of Indiana. Rochester has a zero tolerance drug policy for City employees. Much has been said in this campaign about leadership. The mayor must LEAD by example and be held to the same standards he holds his subordinates. No exceptions.

# 3 Operation Pullover is the overtime program for police that is funded by the federal government and the payout
handled by the state. It is not huge money for our officers but does impact their annual income by a few thousand dollars a year. At specific times during the year, communities who participate provide extra police patrols (overtime) to “step up” efforts to stop very specific driving and safety infractions.

This program has been riddled with controversy since its beginning. The state will tell you there are no “quotas” involved with the program, although I have been told that officers are required to make a set amount of “contacts” (contacts are stops) to continue to participate in the program.

If this is true this would seem to me to be an unofficial quota.

I am certainly not for quotas for police and would never want officers who felt they had to perform their duties in a more aggressive manner than normal just because they were involved in Operation Pullover. If you look carefully at the title of the program, it suggests that the goal is to pull you over.

I promise this would definitely be one of the many activities of the past I would seriously review and not blindly accept that it is good for Rochester.

Dave Fincher

#1 I refuse to bash our police department. I need the police officers to respect and trust me, although I do believe that there is plenty of room for improvement, as there is in every other department. If elected mayor, my goal is to set up meetings with our police, the city attorney and with the prosecutors if they are willing. In these meetings, it might be beneficial to educate our officers on updated law and how it has changed over time. First and foremost, we should always have the attitude that we must not infringe on the rights of the good people of Rochester in order to prosecute the law-breakers. Most importantly, I look forward to working with Rochester Police Department to improve their image in the community, so every citizen in Rochester will have the faith in them that they deserve. We have to remember that our police officers are people, too. They truly want what is best for our city and I know they don’t wake up in the morning wondering how they can make someone’s life harder. The police don’t make the laws, but they are required to enforce them. Our officers deal with irate, screaming, crying, angry, violent people on a weekly basis and on top of all that they are judged not only by the public in how they interpret the law, but also by the court of law with the risk of civil litigation with personal repercussions.

# 2 When I decided to run for mayor, I made a promise to everyone I would not participate in dirty politics, and to uphold that promise, I feel it’s important to pass over the majority of that question. I believe we should talk about the issues that affect the City of Rochester and nothing more. The majority of people in Rochester know that the incident doesn’t define me as a person and that I am a person who is fair and honest; a person who wants the best for Rochester. I think I will be and should be judged by my 26 years of volunteer service to the community: Cub Scouts, Boy Scouts, Rochester Girls Softball, Fulton Youth League, the Brent Blacketor Memorial Sports Complex, Inc., American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life, Wacky Wednesday Christian Outreach, and my 20 years as an ordained elder at Community Presbyterian Church. If people were judged by a single mistake then no one would ever be qualified to hold public office.

# 3 Operation Pullover is said to promote awareness of drunk driving, seatbelt importance and child protection in vehicles, which are all very important causes. At the moment, Operation Pullover only costs the city the price of gas and the wear and tear on the police cars used, while Operation Pullover covers the rest of the cost. What I don’t like about Operation Pullover is that it is a contest between our department and the departments of other cities to generate 
revenue. I don’t think Operation Pullover has generated goodwill and trust between the police and the majority of the good folks of Rochester and I think it’s telling that the Fulton County Sheriff’s Department does not participate. I do think programs like this are important, however, at this time I think it would be a good idea to back off on Operation Pullover until we have rebuilt the trust between our police department and the people. At times, I think the perception is that our police department is over aggressive and Operation Pullover may only be cultivating that attitude amongst the people.

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