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Wednesday 28 October 2020
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Police Accountability Board Looking to Fill Spot After Second Resignation

Patti Singer
pattisinger@minorityreporter.net

Rochester City Councilman Mitch Gruber, left, and Police Accountability Board chairwoman Shani Wilson at an early meeting of the board. File photo

Personnel changes on most boards likely pass unnoticed by anyone outside the organization.

But those boards aren’t as high profile as the Police Accountability Board, which has had two of its original members resign over the summer for personal reasons.

“Everybody that initially came on, they all were given the same speech about can you do this, is this something that you can do,” said Shani Wilson, who chairs the PAB. “Obviously, the answer was yes. However, there are always unforeseen circumstances in people’s lives. We need to give room for people to go ahead and address those. Just like every other board.”

In late August, Miquel Powell sent a letter to City Council President Loretta Scott and to Wilson that he was resigning because his schedule in the master’s degree program at the College at Brockport would conflict with PAB meetings. He said the PAB considered a leave of absence, but Powell wrote that “I personally cannot hold a PAB seat hostage for 2-3 months in good faith. …”

Powell’s term ran through June 2022.

In June, Jonathan Dollhopf sent a note to City Council that he could not continue on the board for what he termed personal reasons. “This is not easy for me,” he wrote. “… My apologies for the unintended inconvenience.”

The two were among the four seats allotted to the Police Accountability Board Alliance, which is responsible for submitting nominations to City Council. Council interviews nominees according to a rubric and then makes its selection. Of the nine-member board, four come from PABA nominees, four are appointed by City Council and one is appointed by the mayor.

Danielle Tucker, a middle school teacher at Rochester Prep and a landlord and businesswoman, was chosen to replace Dollhopf.

Dollhopf was the only deaf person on the PAB, and as such represented a sizeable segment of the area’s population. While exact statistics are difficult to find, City Hall has repeated the statement that Rochester and its surrounding communities are home to the one of the largest per capita populations of people who are deaf or hard of hearing.

Asked whether the replacement for Powell should represent citizens with disabilities, Scott said, “We want broad representation and encourage the PABA to look to see how they can implement that.”

Wilson, also nominated by the PABA, said she hoped the candidates would be representative of the Rochester community, including differently-abled individuals.

The Police Accountability Board Alliance has a pool of potential candidates and plans to contact the individuals to learn whether they still are interested in serving, said alliance member Ted Forsyth.

He said it’s not known whether any of the current candidates have a disability. He said if people want to make their disability known, “we embrace that.” The alliance is in the process of reconnecting with organizations and agencies that serve people with physical and emotional needs.

The PAB, which came into effect after 75% of city voters approved it in a referendum in 2019, remains the subject of a lawsuit over its ability to discipline police officers. City Council appealed a lower court’s ruling that stripped the board of discipline powers.

Wilson said that the Center for Dispute Settlement in hearing complaints, as it had before the PAB was formed.

Meanwhile, the PAB continues to review approximately 60 applications for the position of executive director. Wilson said interviews have not started.

The PAB meets twice a month, and much of its recent meetings have been held in executive session as it discusses the interview process for the executive director.

Upcoming meetings are scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Sept. 3 and 17. The meetings can be viewed on the City Council’s YouTube channel, www.youtube.com/user/RochesterCityCouncil.