By Miguel Lopez
City Council President Loretta Scott and Deputy Corporation counsel Patrick Beath announced that the Police Accountability Board (PAB) would in fact be allowed to hire their own staff but must follow city guidelines and regulations when hiring and advertising for those positions.
This comes after an email from the City’s HR department stated that the City Council President was the “appointing authority” for the PAB’s staff. City Council says this was an error. The appointing authority will lie with the PAB’s Executive Director Conor Dwyer Reynolds, he will have the final say. However, Scott did say that the PAB is a department within City government.
Scott said, “As the authors of this legislation, we remain steadfast in our support of the PAB as a sub-unit of the City Council. Our intent has always been to ensure the PAB acts as a unit within City government, independent of the Rochester Police Department. As such, the PAB has always been held to the same set of standards and expectations as any other City department, bureau, or unit.”
In response to the PAB’s claims of independence from the city, President Scott stated that the PAB was to be free from any oversight from the Rochester Police Department, but not City Council. The city’s counsel also claims that the 20 jobs approved by the HR department were not posted at request of the PAB, citing an email to the city.
Scott mentioned that since the PAB was created last year, it has yet to investigate a single civilian claim of police brutality or police misconduct. She also mentioned that the City footed the legal fees in the PAB’s appeals to keep disciplinary power over the RPD, which she says the City has no intentions to interfere with PAB investigations and has remained steadfast in their support of the PAB.
“We have remained true, the council has continually supported the PAB whether it be legislatively, legally, or financially, and yet to this day, the PAB still has not investigated a single case.” This was met with an interruption from PAB supporters, who were there to advocate for the independence of the PAB. The press conference was technically for the media only, and Scott made the protesters aware of this.
After the event was over, I ran into Reynolds, who shared with me his relief that the PAB can now continue to go forward with hiring, and that the PAB has been following the City’s HR procedures on hiring since it was created.
He later told local news that “We have to have the autonomy and authority, to run our own operations, to control and supervise our staff. For the last year, the City has not agreed to follow the charter on those rules, but today they finally said they’re going to be changing their approach and treating us with the autonomy we deserve.”
On the 20 or so unfilled positions, Reynolds says the city were the ones who stopped the hiring process. “The city said we wouldn’t be able to hire those positions, instead that city council will be hiring those positions, and supervising those staff. That’s why we came out, asked our attorneys to tell the city to do differently and today the city said yes, they would be changing their approach and allowing us to hire our own staff.”