By unanimous vote Tuesday night, Rochester City Council appointed the first-ever members of the new Police Accountability Board.
The initial board will consist of the Rev. Matthew Nickoloff, Ida Perez, Rabbi Drorah Setel, Dr. Robert Harrisson III, Jonathan Dollhopf, Miquel Powell, Dr. Celia McIntosh, Shani Wilson, and the Rev. Dr. Rickey B. Harvey.
“These are outstanding, excellent,” Council President Loretta Scott said of the selections. “The level of diversity across numerous fields I think was really, really impressive.”
Voters approved establishing the nine-member board in a November referendum. Under the law, the board is to be an independent office of city government with an executive director and staff. It is to be responsible for investigating allegations of officer misconduct and have the power to issue subpoenas, impose discipline, and assess police practices and procedures.
The board members were appointed to terms lasting through June 30, at which point Council will appoint members to staggered three-year terms. The positions are unpaid.
The legality of the board, however, remains uncertain. The Rochester Police Locust Club, the union that represents the city’s 740 police officers, filed a lawsuit in state court seeking to strike down the board. That case is still pending.
Earlier in the day, the Locust Club released a prepared statement expressing concern with transparency in the selection process. But as he left the Council meeting, union President Michael Mazzeo had little comment.
“We’re really not going to comment until the court decisions come through,” Mazzeo said. “We’ve been receiving a lot of calls in the office asking about the process, and we told them we’re just as in the dark as everybody else.”
One of the appointees, Miquel Powell, came under particular scrutiny when it surfaced last week that he had shot a woman in 2002. He was 21 at the time and subsequently served five years in prison for second-degree assault.
He has since become a drug and alcohol counselor with the Catholic Family Center. In 2017, Powell founded the Reentry and Community Development Center, which assists people reentering society from prison or rehab.
Powell was recommended to the Council by the Police Accountability Board Alliance, a grassroots organization that is widely credited with bringing the board to fruition and was given an opportunity in the legislation that created the board to offer up candidates.
The Alliance’s Ted Forsyth stood by the group’s selections and said that they were the best people for the job. After years of activism, the most difficult work still lies ahead, he added.
“I’ve been telling people this, the easy part was the activism, the hard part is the implementation,” Forsyth said. “I’m confident the people selected are a really diverse, solid group of people.”
Gino Fanelli is a CITY staff writer. He can be reached at email@example.com.