City Council will give residents a chance to share their thoughts on what’s been happening, including the protests in reaction to learning about the death of Daniel Prude and the discussion of reimagining public safety.
City Council also wants to reverse course of the Rochester Police Department Goodman Section and Southeast Neighborhood Service Center. It also is hiring the same lawyer that is appealing the Police Accountability Board case to investigate response to Prude’s death.
The listening session will be held via Zoom videoconference at 5 p.m. Sept. 16. Councilmembers are not expected to respond to any comments. Speakers will have three minutes.
Participants can sign up by sending an email to Katy.Hasselwander@CityofRochester.Gov or by calling (585) 428-7538. Residents must provide a brief description of their topic, their name, phone number and address. Only participant’s names will be shared live. Participants will speak in the order their sign up is received and confirmed by Council staff.
This session will be livestreamed on the Council YouTube Channel and shared on the Council Facebook Page. More information can be found at cityofrochester.gov/publicmeetings.
The listening session comes a day after council is scheduled to vote on legislation to repeal a previous bill that would have authorized a new building for the Rochester Police Department Goodman Section and Southeast Neighborhood Service Center.
On Sept. 11, council president Loretta Scott and councilmembers Mitch Gruber and Mary Lupien submitted legislation to prevent issuing bonds and awarding contracts. No work has started and no bonds have been issued. The city was to issue $12.5 million in bonds for the approximately $16 million project.
The legislation for the go-ahead passed on Aug. 18.
“Much has changed in our community since we met in August to discuss this project,” Scott said in a news release. “We learned of and saw the gruesome video of Daniel Prude’s death in March, this coupled with the recent retirements and voluntary demotions of the entire RPD Command Staff, has led the Council to reconsider the appropriateness of the project at this time.”
Gruber said the vote in August was the culmination of more than five years of planning to create a five-section model of policing. He said the death of Prude “has caused a breach of trust in the community that makes it critical to repeal last month’s legislation, hold off on bonding for these dollars, and reassess the long-term plan.”
Lupien said the city needs to “engage our community about ways to reimagine public safety for all in Rochester.”
The Goodman section would have been a move to return policing to neighborhoods, which some neighborhood groups have supported as a way to better connect with officers.
As for its own investigation into the response to Daniel Prude’s death, City Council hired Andrew Celli Jr. of the firm Emery Celli Brinkerhoff Abady Ward & Maazel.
Celli will investigate “internal processes” that occurred after officers encountered Prude on March 23, 2020.
Celli already is working for City Council on the appeal of the Police Accountability Board lawsuit. Council said detail, including funding, would be released. City Council will also be engaging Linda Kingsley, former City of Rochester Corporation Counsel and current Albany Law professor, on a pro-bono basis to
provide temporary legal counsel and advice to the Rochester City Council.
As for hiring Celli on the matter of Daniel Prude and any potential conflicts because he already represents council, Scott said, “ … (W)e have been incredibly impressed with the thoughtfulness and thoroughness of Mr. Celli’s work related to the Police Accountability Board. We believe that Andy has a firm understanding of our City and City Government but also provides an outsider perspective that we would not have from a firm within the City of Rochester.”
She wrote in an email that City Council is his client and that is where he will report his findings. “He is independent, however, in that the Council has not instructed him, and will not instruct him, as to what to find or what to conclude. We expect to make his report public and, at that point, everyone can judge the case on its facts and everyone can decide for themselves whether the conclusions are truly independent. We know they will be, whatever they are.”