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Mayor pitches $1.7M cut to Rochester Police Accountability Board's $5M budget

Gino Fanelli/CITY

Mayor Malik Evans has recommended cutting funding for the Rochester Police Accountability Board by about a third in his budget proposal to City Council for the upcoming fiscal year. The recommendation comes as the agency gears up to complete its first investigations into police misconduct.

The Police Accountability Board has for the past two years operated on a $5 million annual budget. That figure was requested by former Executive Director Conor Dwyer Reynolds and approved by former Mayor Lovely Warren, although the agency typically expended only half that amount.

Last year, as an investigation into misconduct by Reynolds was underway, City Council President Miguel Melendez froze half of the PAB budget. That funding was later redistributed into different city projects, including a contract to build shelters for the homeless at the Peace Village encampment.

This year, Evans has proposed trimming the budget to $3.4 million. The bulk of that cut comes in the form of a restructuring at the PAB, which includes eliminating 40 full-time positions, while adding 13 new ones, including staff attorneys. The agency currently has no attorneys on staff.

The budget was presented to the Rochester City Council on May 12, and is expected to be voted on in June. It would go into effect July 1.

The PAB was originally planned to have 57 full-time employees, although the staffing level has never reached that number and most of the positions recommended for elimination were never filled. In total, the proposed cut in employees accounts for a $1.2 million cost saving. The rest of the cuts are accounted for by the sunsetting of a $500,000 state grant.

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Most of the staffing eliminations are “accountability inspector” positions, which account for 25 of the 40.

Last week, the PAB unveiled its guidelines for disciplining Rochester police officers found to have committed misconduct. The courts, however, have determined that the board cannot compel discipline for officers. The recommendations of the board were described by Chair Larry Knox as “informal.”

The PAB was created in the fall of 2019 by a referendum that received overwhelming support of voters. The board’s mission includes examining policy and procedure of the Rochester Police Department and investigating complaints of misconduct.

In its first two years, the board fell short of meeting all of its performance metrics. For example, by June of 2022, it was expected to have completed 125 investigations of misconduct. It had completed none.

The findings of its first completed investigation of officer misconduct are expected to be released on May 18.

Gino Fanelli is an investigative reporter who also covers City Hall. He joined the staff in 2019 by way of the Rochester Business Journal, and formerly served as a watchdog reporter for Gannett in Maryland and a stringer for the Associated Press.
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