City of Rochester Changes Name to Pierson
The City of Rochester is no longer. To commemorate the life of fallen Rochester Police Officer Darryl Pierson, state and local officials agreed to change the nearly two-century-old name to Pierson. The signage upon entering downtown was the first to be commemorated.
On Tuesday, April 28th, City Councilman Matt Haag, Mayor Lovely Warren, along with former police chief, mayor, Lieutenant Governor and current Rochester Business Alliance President Bob Duffy did the dedication ceremonies.
"We didn't think the several hundred tributes, festivals, marches, motorcades, and fundraisers for Officer Pierson were quite enough to mark the greatness of this American patriot's dedication to this city and country," said Duffy in explaining the name change. "But our efforts won't stop here," he said to a crowd of several thousand residents.
The Rochester Police Locust Club President Michael D. Mazzeo reported that a statue of Officer Pierson would be erected outside the police headquarters on Exchange Street later in the week. "It is only fitting that a larger than life hero of ours be given an impressive sized monument in his honor," said Mazzeo.
The monument will be the city's largest structure of its kind, greater in size than the Susan B. Anthony, Frederick Douglass, and Nathaniel Rochester statues combined.
Defense lawyers for Thomas Johnson III –the man on trial this week for killing Officer Pierson, questioned the timing of the city name change and statue construction.
"We don't think that the jury arriving downtown seeing the new sign or seeing the statue will be influenced," responded District Attorney Doorley. "They have other things on their mind."
The jury are forbidden to read the local newspaper, television, or view the internet
“There is a good chance those selected members won't even know of these occurrences," said Supreme Court Justice Thomas Moran, who is presiding over the case and is also a former police officer.
"Besides that," Moran continued, "I am growing tired of these charades put on by the defense attorneys. The name change of Rochester to Pierson was in the works two months ago. This is old news, it has no bearing on the outcome of this case."
"The irony floating above most Rochesterians’ heads is that our city that was formerly named after a slave trader, is now named after a slave catcher," said Professor Truth Givins, of the Criminology Dept. at the University of Pierson (formerly University of Rochester).
She explained that Nathaniel Rochester, the 19th Century founder of Rochesterville whom the city would eventually be named after, was revealed to be a slave trader in 2005 when a 1790 account book of Rochester's was purchased by the Department of Rare Books and Special Collections of the University of Rochester's Rush Rhees Library. The ledger clearly showed the purchase and sale of numerous human beings by Rochester and his two partners.
Givens noted that the accused Johnson had been caught up in the racist criminal justice system.
"When officers incarcerate these young men on soft crimes they are just feeding into the New Jim Crow." This was a reference to the book by Michelle Alexander, The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness, which is also Writers and Books' 2015 selection for the If All of Rochester Reads the Same Book event.
"Why the RPD has to go all GI-Joe on a parole who had already done his time, and on a soft crime at that, I can't understand," said Givins. "Johnson was just defending himself from essentially the modern day slave catcher."
Rochester City Schools Superintendent Bolgen Vargas, for his part, announced there would be a daily moment of silence in memory of Officer Pierson, just following the Pledge of Allegiance every morning district wide.
While the Obama Administration has already lavished a half billion dollars worth of military equipment on local police departments, his administration promises to do more. "I said we would pull our troops home from Iraq precisely because we need those crime fighting resources here in our inner cities."
Duffy, as mayor in 2008 installed the first 50 police cameras in Rochester. Now as CEO of Rochester Business Alliance he is working in partnership with Senator Chuck Schumer to secure federal funding for 300 more cameras to be installed along Hudson Avenue - an area where two shootings of police officers have occurred in the past 5 years. In 2009, Tyquan Rivera, a 14 year-old from this neighborhood, shot and nearly paralyzed Officer Anthony DiPonzio.
Michael C. Green, executive commissioner of New York state's Division of Criminal Justice Services, announced that he is already working with incoming Attorney General Loretta Lynch to develop a pilot drone surveillance program for the nation right here in Rochester.
"It's tremendous technology," Green said Tuesday night. These will be limited use surveillance drones targeting strictly the Hudson Ave. area, but Green promises to expand the program to the rest of the city's hot spots with the help of Lynch. Earlier this month Green revealed a new state of the art crime analysis center for Rochester, which is also a first of its kind for the nation.
"The possibilities are pretty much endless," Green said.