Rochester City Council is appealing a ruling that will prevent a public vote on an independent police accountability board this November. The ruling came from New York Supreme Court Justice John Ark, who struck down the referendum Wednesday. In question is the legality of the law passed by city council in June which creates the board.
According to the City Charter, currently the adjudication of police officers sits with the mayor’s office and the police chief. Any acts by city council to reduce the mayor’s power, which is what the police accountability board would do, triggers a public vote.
Ark’s ruling said there was not enough time to thoroughly check the legality of how the board was created before residents can vote on it. Early voting comes to New York state in late October.
Ark also ruled that the referendum can be printed on the ballot but any votes on it cannot be counted. This is because more than 300 absentee ballots with the referendum on it have already been sent out.
Mike Mazzeo, president of the Rochester Police Locust Club, which represents rank and file officers, has said on many occasions that this law violates many state, federal and collective bargaining rights.
City Council President Loretta Scott hopes that the state appellate court overrules Ark.
“It is our hope that the appellate court will allow the votes to be cast and counted so that the voice of the people can be heard,” said Scott via an emailed statement. “This vote is too important to push off and to do so would only serve to confuse voters. The voices of the Rochester electorate must be heard and we encourage all to vote on the proposition.”
Scott told WXXI News earlier this year that if this measure fails, a board would be created early next year without the ability to discipline officers.