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First PAB Executive Director: “Our Enemy is the Deep Structures of Racism and Injustice”

Patti Singer

The vision of the Police Accountability Board is to fundamentally change public safety, not seek piecemeal reform, said the newly minted executive director.

Conor Dwyer Reynolds, a Rochester native who graduated from the University of Rochester and Yale Law School, where he most recently taught, was introduced Oct. 16 as the first executive director of the PAB.

“My job is to execute this vision,” he said at a news conference outside City Hall. “The board will define public safety by listening to all of Rochester’s people. … Our enemy is the deep structures of racism and injustice that goes beyond any single person or group of people. Anyone committed to dismantling those structures is our ally in this fight to reimagine public safety.”

PAB chairperson Shani Wilson said the board received 154 resumes for the job of executive director and interviewed 13 individuals.

“In addition to his impressive track record, Conor brings a depth of character that distinguishes him as singularly prepared and skilled from a competitive applicant field,” she said.

Reynolds has worked on President Barack Obama’s re-election campaign, consulted on state and local political campaigns and clerked for a federal judge in Mississippi where he helped manage cases involving police misconduct and discrimination against police officers.

At Yale, he led the restructuring of the school’s Environmental Protection Clinic and partnered with Rochester’s City Roots Community Land Trust to address racism in Monroe County.

Reynolds said that even with the discipline authority of the PAB still in court, the board has enough other tools to bring about what he called real change.

Police Accountability Board Executive Director Conor Dwyer Reynolds talks with a resident after a news conference outside City Hall Oct. 16, 2020. Photo by Patti Singer/Minority Reporter Media Group

Reynolds said it will take money to secure the board’s goals.

“If we receive the funding this moment of crisis calls for, we can fulfill the highest hopes of our community,” he said.

The law that established the PAB said the annual proposed budget “shall provide for sufficient funding to carry out the powers and duties … including the funding of staff and all necessary operating expenses for the purpose of resolving all complaints within 90 days.”

The PAB budget comes from the city and is separate from the budget for the Rochester Police Department.

Reynolds said the budget was $400,000, which he said would let the PAB hire “at most, four fulltime staff.”

The executive director salary ranges from $72,491 to $95,582. His exact salary was not given.

Reynolds said that to meet the obligation of clearing complaints within 90 days, the board would need “dozens and dozens of full time staff and serious funding for equipment, office space and services.”

Asked if that money could come from reallocating funds that might otherwise go to traditional policing, Reynolds said the “the conversation will be rooted in the community’s priorities about how we fund public safety.”

Reynolds said that Oakland, California, spends about $4 million on its civilian review of police and that it has a backlog. Oakland has more than twice the population of Rochester and the police force about 50 more officers than the RPD.

Here is the job description that was posted by the PAB:

Typical work activities:

  • Develops and administers the procedure for which complainants file and present their cases for review by the Board including: interviewing witnesses, taking statements; and advising on matters such as requests for subpoenas;
  • Reviews all investigative case reports compiled by Accountability Examiners prior to their review by the Board;
  • Maintains secure files of Board records ensuring compliance with all applicable local, state, and federal laws and retention requirements;
  • Compiles statistics of Board business to include all data required for reports;
  • Represents and makes presentations on behalf of the Board to the City Administration, City Council, State and Federal Agencies, the press, community organizations, and the general public;
  • Assists the Board in pursuing community and youth engagement opportunities regarding the Boards purpose and mission;
  • Assists the Board in the design and delivery of public education and community outreach programs intended to create awareness of the mission and functions of the Board as well as the complaint filing process
  • Keeps regular working and office hours consistent with other City Departments and Board meetings;
  • Identifies necessary trainings and ensures that Board members and support staff for the Board participate in those trainings;
  • Facilitates communication and scheduling for Board meetings and hearings;
  • Recruits, supervises, and evaluates the performance of additional staff support positions for the Board;
  • May perform additional tasks as needed or as directed by the Board or its Chairperson within the jurisdiction of the Board.

Minimum qualifications:

  • Master’s degree and three (3) years of full-time executive level experience which involved the planning, implementing, and organizing of programs, which included the development of policies and procedures, for either a public or private sector agency; or
  • Bachelor’s degree and five (5) years of full-time executive level experience as defined in A, or
  • Associate’s degree and seven (7) years of full-time executive level experience as defined in A. Preference will be given to candidates with a background in Criminal Justice, Law, or prior experience with a civilian review board.