By Staff –
Two organizations, the Rochester Coalition for Police Reform and Enough is Enough Rochester, held a press conference Tuesday to present findings from the groups’ report “The Case for an Independent Police Accountability System,” as part of the organizations’ call for a new independent civilian review board.
“Our purpose is to publicize the need for a transformed police review process which will ensure transparency, justice, dignity, and procedures and practices which are anti-racist, anti-biased, and support the civil liberties and civil rights of our black and brown citizens who have been the target over the years of police excessive force and shootings,” Rev. Lewis Stewart, co-chair of the coalition, stated.
According to data compiled by lead researchers Barbara Lacker-Ware and Ted Forsyth, from Enough is Enough Rochester, “from 2002 to 2015, only two percent of civilian complaints of unnecessary force have been sustained by the chief of police, and only 5 percent by the city’s current civilian review board.”
In addition, “during the 14 years reviewed in the data, the harshest penalties meted out to police officers for sustained complaints of excessive use of force were six suspensions,” the group said.
“This two percent sustained by the chiefs in Rochester matches Chicago’s sustain rate of two percent,” Lacker-Ware said. “We all know that Chicago is the most notoriously corrupt police system in the country.”
Lacker-Ware also pointed to Syracuse’s revamped Civilian Review Board as an example of a successful CRB, and said the city’s average sustain rate for the board during the past four years has been 26 percent.
“The Syracuse civilian review process is an independent department of the city,” Lacker-Ware stated. “It conducts its own investigations, and is completely separate of the police, although they share their investigations. So, back to Rochester. Time after time, officers who have engaged in unnecessary use of force against civilians are back on the streets, with no visible consequences for their behavior. …The current process of reviewing civilian complaints – it’s not fair, it’s not just, and it must be changed.”
Charles Burkwit, a local attorney who’s represented several city residents who allege they’ve been brutalized by RPD officers, said the biggest problem with the current process of reviewing civilian complaints is that the RPD still maintains oversight.”
“The Rochester city council resolution requires that the civilian review board members be volunteers,” Burkwit stated. “Well, they are not. Many of them are employees of the Center for Dispute Settlement. These are not independent volunteers. The Center for Dispute Settlement is funded directly by the Rochester Police Department.”
According to Stewart, the coalition will continue to seek community endorsements, in support of creating an independent civilian review board, convening community forums, and lobbying the city in its call.
Visit http://enoughisenough.rocus.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/02/The-Case-for-an-Independent-Police-Accountability-System-2.1.17-FINAL.pdf to view the groups’ full report, or click on the images below to view video from the press conference.