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PAB Wants Close to $5 Million From City Budget

Patti Singer
pattisinger@minorityreporter.net

Rochester residents voted overwhelmingly in 2019 for a Police Accountability Board. File photo

The Police Accountability Board is asking that the city devote $1 on its work for every $20 it spends on policing.

Using that math, the board is proposing the city allocate approximately $5 million in fiscal year 2021-22 to fund three bureaus within the PAB.

PAB Executive Director Conor Dwyer Reynolds announced the budget proposal on April 14.

The city’s fiscal year begins July 1.

Reynolds said the PAB would hold a series of educational events about the budget. A quick guide to the document called the budget “an operational blueprint” for building the agency into “a national model for community-led policy oversight.”

The 85-page proposal “represents over six months of research into best practices, budgets, case processing systems, and other features of civilian oversight agencies across the country,” according to a news release. “Adopting this proposal would fulfill the (city charter’s) vision while building the PAB into a national model for community-led police oversight.”

The budget proposal is at www.cityofrochester.gov/pab/budget/.

The law creating the PAB in 2019 gave it disciplinary powers. However those have been challenged and their fate still awaits a court decision.

The legislation requires the PAB to prepare an annual budget and submit it to the mayor and City Council during the budget process. The first-year budget included start-up costs such as office furnishings, equipment, training for board members and staff and search for the executive director.

The budget proposal puts current PAB funding at $400,000. The proposal said that funding up to $5 million dooms the PAB to likely failure. It said funding between $5 million and $7.5 million gives it a likely chance of success, and funding between $7.5 million and $10 million gives it “the best odds of success.”

The proposal puts the $5 million in context by saying it represents “a landmark investment that makes Rochester a national model for police oversight in terms of funding for civilian review boards.” It also represents the salaries of the 34 most highly paid RPD officers, according to publicly available salary data from 2020 and is 20% of what Minneapolis spent to settle legal claims over George Floyd’s death.

The proposal quotes sources from around the country that say lack of resources and can undermine the work of oversight boards, leading to frustration on all sides.

The PAB received $500,000 from the state for fiscal 2021-22.

Here are highlights of each of the three proposed bureaus:

  • Accountability, which is “dedicated to fulfilling the City Charter’s mandate that the PAB fairly investigate and make determinations respecting complaints of misconduct involving sworn officers of the Rochester Police Department.” The PAB estimates it will receive 480 complaints per year and investigate 360. Staff of 31 and salaries of $2.27 million. Divisions of complaints (four staff), investigations (24) and adjudication (three) with staff and salaries broken out by division.
  • Systemic change, to “ensure public accountability and transparency over the powers exercised by sworn officers of the Rochester Police Department.” The bureau will oversee every aspect of policing and create “community-driven, evidence-based proposals for change.” Staff of 12 and salaries of $887,821. Divisions of oversight (six staff), policy (three) and rulemaking (three) with salaries broken out.
  • Administration, which will coordinate the work of the board and make sure the board is used by the public. Staff of 13 and salaries of $969,796. Job titles and salaries for each are broken out. Divisions of education and engagement (five staff), operations (six) and legal (one). The executive director position falls under administration.

Data from the city’s website shows the 480 estimate may be high. There have been 375 complaints from 2011 through 2019, according to statistics from the Professional Standards Section and posted at www.cityofrochester.gov/PSSannualreports/.

PSS maintains Rochester Police Department disciplinary records.

From 2011 through 2019, RPD answered 3.2 million calls for service.

The highest number of complaints was 86 in 2011. The lowest number was 13 in 2019. Body worn cameras started in 2016, and from that year through 2019 there were 71 complaints