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Police Accountability Board Submits Recommendations for Reforming RPD

Patti Singer
pattisinger@minorityreporter.net

After being introduced as Police Accountability Board Executive Director in October, Conor Dwyer Reynolds, left, meets with a resident. File photo

The Police Accountability Board is submitting six recommendations to the city’s Working Group on Police Reform, part of the response to Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s mandate that municipalities look at ways to reimagine public safety.

The deadline for locales to submit their reports is April 1.

United Christian Leadership Ministry also submitted recommendations. The city has not yet announced a public hearing for which recommendations it will include in its report to the governor.

The PAB had issued a draft report in December and then actively sought feedback. According to the report, Final Answers to Questions from the Working Group of Police Reform & Reinvention, the board conducted more than a dozen presentations that it said reached hundreds of people.

The PAB also had solicited comments on its website.

“When Rochester’s citizens speak, it is our job to listen,” PAB chairwoman Shani Wilson wrote in a news release announcing the report. “We have experts on public safety here living their lives every day here in Rochester. This Working Group process confirmed what we already know to be true: that expertise lies in the everyday experiences of our citizens. This expertise caused us to make a number of important changes to our recommendations.”

Among the major changes from the draft report, the PAB recommends the city spend at least $10 million this year to fund alternative first-responder systems; be fully transparent about how those systems operate; use non-police personnel as first responders to evictions; and fund training from the existing RPD budget.

The report will be posted at https://www.cityofrochester.gov/pab/answers/

The six recommendations are:

Drastically increase staffing for first responder systems that appropriately replace police with social workers and mental health providers. Begin by making the goals, Work, and Evaluation of the Office of Crisis Intervention Services (OCIS) Fully Transparent; Immediately Increasing Funding for Alternative First Responder Systems to $10 Million; Using Social Workers & Other Non-Police Personnel As First Responders to Evictions

This was revised from the initial proposal, which called for substituting police. According to the report, “There may be circumstances where law enforcement support is necessary to ensure the safety of both residents in crisis and non-police first responders.”

Another revision called for the “drastic increase” of funding. the PAB is recommending that – in addition to linking the Office of Crisis Intervention Services budget to the percentage of relevant crisis calls – the City should immediately boost the funding it directs to all alternative first responder systems (inside or outside of the Office) from $1 million to $10 million. The report was not clear on the source – the department, line item or other classification – for the allocation.

Support organizations that are working to change the policing/public safety blueprint.

Reallocate existing RPD funding to create training, prevention and response systems that address officer mental health.

This was revised from “stress and trauma” to mental health to clarify that the systems should address overall officer well-being. It also changed wording from “boost funding,” which the report said could be interpreted as adding more money. “The PAB agrees that the RPD has enough funding to make all of the changes PAB is recommending, including those about mental health. The PAB does not support a boost in the RPD’s budget,” the report stated.

Create training and disciplinary policies to end use of breathing restrictions, chemical weapons including tear gas, devices such as sound cannons; high-risk practices including no-knock warrants; use of flashbangs during protests.

This was revised to include the prohibition against flashbangs. RPD has policies against tactics such as chokeholds.

Support a community-led process that educates residents on how limited public safety money can be spent, learns priorities and bases a budget on those needs.

Collect and release comprehensive data on enforcement patterns, internal culture, policing practices and make public all aspects of officer training. The PAB is calling for the city to have an accessible open data portal that includes “comprehensive information on officer disciplinary history, including pending, exonerated, unfounded or unsubstantiated allegations or charges (so long as those allegations or charges are listed as such).”