Voters overwhelmingly support Police Accountability Board

Nov 5, 2019

Credit Emily Hunt for WXXI News

The Rochester City Charter gives the mayor’s office and the police chief the power to review and choose punishments for city police officers accused of misconduct.

After voters weighed in this year, that power is now shared with a Police Accountability Board – for now, anyway. 

Unofficial results show that Rochester residents approved the measure, 75% to 25%. 

The clock is now ticking for City Council, Mayor Lovely Warren, and the Police Accountability Board Alliance to choose nine board members, hire an executive director and several staff members as full-time employees in the next 90 days. That’s a tall task that alliance members said they have already started. 

After everyone is chosen, another tall task follows: learning police regulations in order to determine whether officers have violated them. At the same time, they need to create a disciplinary matrix to determine what punishments are applicable for what crimes. 

Alliance members say they want input from the public, the Rochester Police Department and the Rochester Police Locust Club, which is the police union. It’s unlikely that the Locust Club would participate, though, because it’s expected to sue over the board’s existence. 

The union has already sued to keep the referendum off the ballot. After that failed, Locust Club President Mike Mazzeo made it clear that more litigation is likely, as did the ruling in the case. Judge John Ark’s ruling said there was not enough time to thoroughly check the legality of the board before residents could vote on it. 

That opens a window for another court challenge from the union. Mazzeo has said repeatedly that the board violates collective bargaining agreements, due process rights as well as state and federal laws.