Tuesday night was a milestone in a decades-long fight over how police misconduct claims in Rochester should be handled. Rochester City Council passed a new law creating an independent police accountability board. The vote was unanimous. The board would handle police misconduct claims. Council President Loretta Scott called the vote "momentous."
“I think the whole country is going through a change as it related to police community relations,” said Scott. “It’ll take these kinds of systems to respond to the concerns that have been lifted up about concerns in that regard. And this model, I don’t think there’s another model like this one.”
Not everybody at the council meeting was pleased with the measure passing. Rochester Locust Club President Mike Mazzeo remains a skeptic.
“I see legislation that was copy and pasted. That council members can’t even explain. I don’t think other than three or four them, I don’t think most of them have read the whole thing,” said Mazzeo. “This legislation was passed for the sake of passing oversight. That shouldn’t have been the goal. It wasn’t a question about yes or no to oversight it was about passing oversight that ensured due process, collective bargaining rights that everyone could buy-in and accept and ensure its done correctly.”
Mazzeo said that he’s considering all options because of the implications of the new law which would take power to punish police officers from the mayor and the police chief and put it the hands of this new civilian led board.
Whether the board can have this power remains an open question for two reasons: it apparently has conflicts with New York state law and the city charter.
That’s why a legal challenge is likely from the Locust Club and why the public will have the final say this November. That’s when Rochester residents will vote on whether the city charter should be changed.
Council President Scott said that the board will be in place whether or not it has the right to determine what consequence officers should face for police misconduct.
The earliest the board will be active is January 2020. It's expected to cost about $700,000 dollars per year to operate.