In December 2017, the Rochester Police Department announced some changes to their command staff. Several notable members of the force would be moving up the ladder, among them La’Ron Singletary.
Appointed Deputy Chief of Police, Singletary has taken over as the RPD’s community liaison and Public Information Officer. His primary role involves bridging the gap between the department’s estimated 700 officers and the roughly 210 thousand Rochester residents. He replaces Wayne Harris who retired earlier last year.
He also oversees the department’s recruitment tactics, which means he’s in charge of finding kids interested in joining the force. Kids, like him.
Singletary says he knew from a young age he wanted to become a police officer.
“Since I was 5 or 6 my grandfather used to say I would sit on the couch…my feet dangling, saying, ‘Grandpa, I’m going to be one of those’ [while] watching the T.V. show cops,” Singletary aid.
Singletary had a strong desire to carry a badge even before he could tie his own shoes. He was born and raised here in Rochester. He graduated from John Marshall High school and continued his education at Monroe Community College where he earned an Associates in Science in Criminal Justice and Law Enforcement Administration. Singletary would then go on to get a bachelor’s degree in law enforcement from Keuka College and a Masters in Public Administration from SUNY Brockport.
But even before college, he was on his way to becoming a police officer.
At the age of 14 he channeled that passion into the RPD’s Explorer’s program. Through the program, boys and girls ages 14 through 20 are able to get an inside look into the field of law enforcement. They assist real officers and have the opportunity to rise through ranks within the program, something Singletary did quickly.
“At 14 he knew what he wanted to do,” Sgt. Darlene Rogers of RPD. “He kept his life, and focus on his goals and he is where he’s at today because of that.” Rogers worked closely with Singletary in the Explorers program. She watched as he learned, grew and led other students. Eventually, Singletary earned the rank of Captain, something she feels is a strong indicator of how far he can go in the future.
“I’ve always told him back in the day if you want to be, you could be chief. He’s a highly motivated person,” she said. Rogers pointed out that Singletary has an ability to lead and teach his teammates.
For now Singletary is eager to continue developing ideas for his new post and he’s not the only one. The department and community leaders are excited to work with the rising star.
“The department is excited. The community is excited. Everyone wants to meet with me and tell me their ideas of how to collaborate with them and vice versa so it’s been great,” said Singletary.
Singletary’s promotion comes in the midst of tension between the community and RPD. It’s not new. Residents rioted in 1964 because of policing issues, in addition to unfair housing and employment practices. Just last summer, more than 70 protesters were arrested at a Black Lives Matter rally that shut down Rochester’s East End. Over the past year and a half, RPD has held community discussions and worked with stalwarts and activists to reshape policy moving forward.
With added support from the department, family and friends the 37-year-old Singletary is paving the way for new policing. An International Association of Chiefs of Police 40 under 40 Award winner, he has been recognized internationally for his leadership skills and dedication to his profession.
Continuing the trend, he is now attempting to get the RPD on the same page as younger generations and its neglected communities. He wants to get them involved and help his officers communicate more effectively.
“Right now the biggest thing is community engagement,” he said. “To try to figure out the ways the department can interact with the public. Establishing those relationships and identifying the barriers that may come between police and the community.”
And there are barriers. Despite his charm, Singletary comes into this role at a time where policing of minority communities will be a challenge. With issues like police brutality, racism and racial profiling within departments being exposed regularly, it will be his responsibility to take the discussions and recommendations from local experts and develop changes to the department. He is tasked with building trust and teaching officers how to engage appropriately- particularly with youth. But he says he is ready to take on the task.
“Throughout the country there has been some issues between law enforcement and certain segments of the population in the community…Officers have to really want to be a part of the engaging factor,” said Singletary who believes that no matter the obstacles, there needs to be an opportunity for open dialog.
As a 17-year veteran of the force with a multitude of experience, many believe Deputy Chief Singletary is the right person to energize that dialog.
“He’s grounded. He doesn’t let the promotions he’s gotten go to his head. He can supervise without being harsh,” said Rogers. “I don’t know anyone that has said a bad word about him… He shares, he develops other people and for me I think that’s what a good leader is.”