Help wanted: Nine people who’ve lived in Rochester for at least a year to form the Police Accountability Board.
Job description: Annually review and assess policies, procedures, patterns and practices of the Rochester Police Department and make recommendations for changes to the chief of police, mayor and Rochester City Council.
Length of appointment: Three years.
City Council announced Nov. 13 that it is recruiting members for the Police Accountability Board, which was approved by voters on Election Day. The deadline for applications is Nov. 27.
“Appointing a diverse PAB, reflective of our community is important, and that is why I am encouraging city residents who are interested in serving to send in their information,” Council President Loretta C. Scott wrote in a news release. “The Council will be conducting interviews in order to ensure that those selected are impartial and fair. We want a PAB that is thoughtful and comes to the table without any preconceived notions or prejudices.”
Despite receiving 75% of votes in a referendum and council’s recruitment of candidates to comprise the board, the PAB may not be a done deal.
The Rochester Police Locust Club had sued to block the referendum from being on the ballot. State Supreme Court Justice John Ark gave a temporary stay, but an appeals court allowed the vote. Neither court addressed whether the legislation as written is legal. The union likely is going back to court to get that settled.
“All the legal matters are still there,” Locust Club President Mike Mazzeo said in the days right after the election. “They still have to be heard.”
Mazzeo said the union is seeking instructions from Ark on how to proceed, and those may come in the next few days.
Mazzeo said the union is not against accountability, and that layers already exist. “Right now in this country, everybody wants more accountability, be it in the White House, City Hall, or in the police department. On that part of it, I really felt from the beginning if this vote went with this legislation, more than likely it would pass simply because people look at it, read it and say, ‘What’s wrong with a little more accountability?’” We never challenged that. It was about matters of law and what could be enforced or not.”
The union has argued that the PAB as constructed violates the collective bargaining agreement and some points of civil service law. It also says the PAB takes discipline out of the hands of the chief of police. However, the bill does allow for severability – meaning parts can go forward even if other parts are challenged. Mazzeo said voters should have been presented with legislation already deemed enforceable.
The Rev. Lewis Stewart of the United Christian Leadership Ministry and a longtime advocate of police accountability, is expecting the union to take the PAB bill back to court.
“I think City Council did its due diligence by saying even though they have to power to implement, let there be a referendum … so the community can vote on it so that way we can change the city charter,” Stewart said shortly after the referendum passed. “… Most definitely, (Mazzeo) is going to mount a legal challenge.”
Meanwhile, City Council will be holding interviews to fill the PAB. Here is what you need to know:
- The board will have nine members: four appointed by the Council (with representation from each Council District), four appointed from 12 recommendations by the Police Accountability Board Alliance, and one appointed by the Mayor; all members are subject to confirmation by the City Council.
- The board will meet as needed, frequency will be determined by caseload.
- Other meetings will be scheduled as needed and the board will create by-laws, hire an executive director, and work with Rochester Police Department and Locust Club to develop a disciplinary matrix.
- Terms will be 3 years (the initial board will have staggered terms). Positions are unpaid.
- Members of the board and their immediate family members cannot be current or former members of the RPD.
- Board members cannot be elected officials, or have been an elected official within the past three years, or an immediate family member of a current elected official.
- Board members and their immediate family cannot be attorneys who have represented any party in a police misconduct lawsuit regarding the RPD, chief of police or Locust Club.
- Board members will review and assess RPD policies, procedures, patterns and practices annually and make recommendations for change to the chief of police, mayor and City Council.
- Training will be required on topics listed in Section 18-7 of Local Law 2019-2 / Int. No. 45A (legislation can be found at www.cityofrochester.gov).
To apply, send résumé and a cover letter to: Office of the City Council – Attention PAB, 30 Church St., Room 301A, Rochester, NY 14614, or email PAB.Application@cityofrochester.gov
The cover letter must include why you want to serve on the PAB, how your skills, interests, and experience will be an asset to the PAB, your current address, including ZIP code and how long you have lived in the city.
Résumés will be reviewed by City Council and additional information may be requested from candidates selected. Council will forward résumés and cover letters to the mayor and Police Accountability Board Alliance.