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Rochester City Council releases its draft for a Police Accountability Board

Jan 14, 2019

Credit James Brown WXXI

How should police misconduct be investigated in Rochester? That’s the question facing City Hall in recent weeks.

Rochester City Council believes it has a model that could change the way communities ‘police the police.’

City Council President Loretta Scott, Vice President Adam McFadden, and councilmembers Mitch Gruber and Willie Lightfoot introduced their proposal for an independent Police Accountability board on Monday afternoon.

This is the third proposal presented in the last five months. Mayor Lovely Warren and the Police Accountability Board Alliance, a citizens group, have also released proposals.

McFadden says that Council worked closely with the Alliance and relied on community input sessions to shape the proposal which McFadden says is a step beyond previous attempts to revamp this process.  

“We didn’t do this in a vacuum. We didn’t do this because we saw one video we did this because the times demanded that this happen.”

The legislation calls for the board to use a "disciplinary matrix" which will determine which punishments will be issued when complaints are made.

Potential police misconduct punishments include suspension, retraining and in some cases termination. 

The biggest difference between Mayor Warren’s plan and City Council's plan is who chooses how a police officer will be punished.

In the council’s proposal the new board would rule on complaints and it would be that accountability board and not the police chief, that would have the final say on how an officer would be disciplined. This is similar to a plan put forth by the citizen's group, the Police Accountability Board Alliance.

The mayor says that according to state law, disciplinary action has to  remain in the hands of the chief.

Warren released this statement on Monday:

"The City Administration’s proposal will create a Police Accountability Board that is legally permissible under the laws of the State of New York. As proposed by the Administration, the Police Accountability Board would have unprecedented authority – including subpoena power to compel testimony and the production of evidence – to investigate complaints as well as work toward better policies related to the use of force. I am looking forward to working with City Council and community stakeholders to develop a legally permissible Police Accountability Board that will enhance public safety by improving the public’s trust and creating a fully transparent investigative process that’s fair to both the community and the officers."

Scott says that Council is ready and willing to amend the city charter in order to enact the proposal. She also believes they has the votes to override any veto attempt from the mayor.

“We are responding to the cries that have been made throughout our community for years. If we get sued and we may, we’ll have to face that, but we can’t not do it out of fear that we might get sued.”

City Council plans to hold three forums on the matter. There will be more details on the forums in the near future.

Click on this LINK to the text of the draft proposal.