City Council wants retired officer, public vote for police accountability board

Apr 16, 2019

Credit James Brown WXXI

Rochester City Council is considering allowing a retired officer on its proposed police accountability board.

That’s a change from its draft legislation to create the board, which would manage misconduct claims against the Rochester Police Department.

Council President Loretta Scott said there are two other requirements for that board member.

“It would have to be a retired person, of course, and it would not have been a member of the Rochester Police Department,” said Scott.

The change wasn’t welcome to everyone. Many members of the Roc/ACTS religious caucus shared their concerns at Baber AME Baptist Church on Meigs Street in Rochester.

Having a cop -- retired or not -- on the board is unacceptable, said the Rev. Wanda Wilson of the caucus and the Police Accountability Board Alliance.

“To allow former law enforcement on the board, whether from the police department or somewhere else, would undermine the function and the legitimacy of the PAB,” said Wilson.

The Rev. James Simmons also said only civilians should be on the board.

Pastor James C. Simmons and Rev. Wanda Wilson at Baber AME Episcopal Church.
Credit James Brown WXXI

“We do not need a police officer on the board who has been encultured to this broken system,” said Simmons. “We need an independent police accountability board.”

Scott said finding officers who live in Rochester without ties to the city police department will be a tough task.

“Filling the board will be challenging on all measures,” said Scott. “We have that difficulty now with a number of our boards and commissions. But I don’t believe it’s an impossible task.”

Scott said she expects Council to vote on the board in May. If it passes, Scott said a referendum on who has the authority to discipline officers would be necessary.

“The chief of police has supervisory authority of the police by virtue of the mayor having delegated it to him or her,” said Scott. “This referendum would move that authority to the board.”

That public vote could happen as soon as November.