Deputy Chief (Retired) Wayne Preston Harris grew up the son of a college professor father who later became a Baptist minister and a politically active mother.
At the age of sixteen, following a suggestion from a former student of his father, Chief Harris began an eight-year relationship with the Salvation Army where he worked during the summer at Star Lake Camp in Bloomingdale, NJ. He began as a Counselor-In-Training, and eventually worked his way to the position of Head Counselor. While there, Wayne developed his passion for helping youth and a skill set for interacting with them. This experience would ultimately lead to his career in law enforcement.
Chief Harris’ law enforcement career began in 1985 when he was hired as a police intern for the Rochester Police Department and assigned as a youth outreach worker in the department’s Community Services Section where he served as a liaison between the department and Rochester youth gangs.
He entered the police academy in October 1987 and successfully completed his academic training and probationary period the following year. During his more than 30-year career, Chief Harris served the Rochester community by patrolling the Lake Section, Clinton Section, Highland Section and Downtown Section. Promoted to Sergeant in 1999, he initially returned to the Lake Section where he supervised the first platoon.
In the summer of 2001, he was appointed to a Research Fellowship at the Police Foundation in Washington, DC as part of their Leadership Development program. While there, Chief Harris had the opportunity to study current and historical criminal justice matters that have impacted communities across the United States.
During this time, Yugoslav President Slobadon Milosevic was removed from power. Chief Harris was assigned to research the conflict and ultimately present to sixteen officers from the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, and representatives of the U.S. State Department, on the concept of community policing.
Upon his return to Rochester, Chief Harris spent four years assigned to the Department’s Professional Standards Section (Internal Affairs). This office is charged with conducting internal investigations of alleged police misconduct of officers and making recommendations on the investigations relative to the allegation being sustained, unfounded, or determined to be un-provable. During his time in the Professional Standards Section, the Los Angeles Police Department visited the Rochester Police Department and reviewed their internal affairs procedures which included the review of an officer involved shooting investigation that Chief Harris had conducted. This review led to an invitation for Chief Harris and another investigative sergeant being invited to Los Angeles to take LAPD’s Internal Affairs Investigations Course which he successfully completed in October of 2004.
Chief Harris was promoted to Lieutenant in 2006. As a Lieutenant, he initially managed the Patrol Division East 1st platoon and eventually the 2nd platoon. As Lieutenant, he supervised officers, investigators, and sergeants in criminal investigations and in progress incidents. He was responsible for administrative duties which included payroll, scheduling and the coordination of training for his personnel.
After 4 years in those assignments, Wayne accepted the Lieutenant’s position in the Southeast Neighborhood Service Center where he managed the proactive engagement activity of the Center’s Crime Prevention Officers.
Chief Harris was promoted to Captain in December 2011 where he was assigned as Staff Duty Officer responsible for operational oversight of all patrol functions during
non-business overnight hours. He remained in that position until the spring of 2012 when he became the Northwest Quadrant Captain responsible for all law enforcement services in the Northwest quadrant of the city of Rochester.
He served as Quadrant Captain until October 2013 when he was asked to serve as Temporary Commander of the Patrol Division West making him responsible for all law enforcement services and the management of police personnel for the entire west side of the city of Rochester. He was permanently appointed to the rank of Commander in March of 2014 and remained the commanding officer of the Patrol Division West.
Chief Harris eventually competed for the position of Deputy Chief and was appointed as Deputy Chief of Administration in October 2014, responsible for all administrative functions of the department to include hiring, training, the department budget and labor negotiations.
In conjunction with Mayor Lovely Warren’s strategy on improving Police/Community relations, he was appointed to the position of Deputy Chief of Community Relations and Engagement in August of 2016. In that role, he was responsible for coordinating all community engagement and engagement activities, as well as the department’s community policing initiatives. Additionally, he authored the city of Rochester’s “Blueprint for Engagement” which outlines the challenges faced by the police department in their relationship with the citizens of
Rochester and highlights engagement strategies for improvement. He retired from active service on December 30, 2017.
Chief Harris has been recognized several times for outstanding police service. He is the recipient of numerous Chief’s Letters of Recognition, a Unit Commendation award, several Captain Letters, and an Excellent Police Service Award. Additionally, he is the recipient of the Teddi Award from Camp Good Days and Special Times for his voluntary services above and beyond, to help improve the quality of life for children with cancer and their families.
Deputy Chief Harris holds instructor certifications in general topics, firearms, Implicit Bias and Procedural Justice. He holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Organizational Management, and he is a graduate of the 244th session of the FBI National Academy.
He is an active member of the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives (NOBLE) and, served as their National Financial Secretary from 2018-2020. As of 2020, he was elected Board Chair for the Law Enforcement Action Partnership (LEAP), and he is an active member of the International Association of Chiefs of Police.
His philosophy on public service is based on accountability. He feels that law enforcement agencies, as well as the citizens they serve, are mutually responsible for the welfare of their community. He believes in open and frank dialogue to address issues that impact society, and he strongly supports the establishment of partnerships with community stakeholders to address quality-of-life concerns.
Deputy Chief Harris is recognized as a subject matter expert and is a nationally sought-after speaker on law enforcement topics. Following his retirement, he founded Wayne Consultancy, LLC doing business as CommGage Consulting which focuses on improving the law enforcement industry through education, training, and facilitated dialogue. Areas of focus include community engagement, police/community relations, violence reduction, the history of policing, implicit and explicit bias, procedural justice, and racism.