Police union sues to prevent accountability board vote

Sep 10, 2019

Rochester Police Locust Club sign outside of its Lexington Avenue headquarters.
Credit James Brown WXXI

The city of Rochester is likely headed back to court. The police union is suing the city to stop a public vote on who will discipline police officers. 

Rochester Locust Club President Mike Mazzeo says the new police accountability board goes too far.

“We’re not against accountability, and we haven’t been against it since day one,” said Mazzeo. “We’re not talking about accountability. We’re talking about due process rights. We’re talking about laws. We’re talking about the ability to negotiate certain things.”

Among those things is who decides what punishments police officers will face if found guilty of misconduct. 

The city charter and collectively bargained union contracts say that discipline is up to the mayor, who typically defers to the police chief. 

But a city law passed in May puts punishments in the hands of an independent, civilian-led board. Since the law amends the power of the mayor, a public referendum must be held. Mazzeo thinks he can stop that vote from happening in November with this lawsuit. 

“When it gets to this point, you know we have a responsibility to protect not only the rights of our members

Rochester Locust Club President Mike Mazzeo
Credit James Brown WXXI

 but what we believe is the rights of the residents of this city,” said Mazzeo. “We feel so strongly that this legislation is not a positive thing and we’re taking this action. 

“Unfortunately, more often than not, things have to get resolved in court when they should be able to be resolved across the table.”

The city issued a statement saying it "has no comment on this pending litigation in the interest of protecting taxpayers."