With early voting underway and Election Day rapidly approaching, Rochester Police Locust Club President Mike Mazzeo reiterated the union message that police already have multiple layers of accountability and legislation that would establish a Police Accountability Board is flawed.
“There is more wrong with the legislation than there is right,” Mazzeo said at a news conference Oct. 31 at the Locust Club office.
He said law enforcement did not help draft the legislation that appears as a referendum on the ballot for city voters. He also said the proposed PAB violates the collective bargaining agreement, that it’s not necessary because citizen complaints are decreasing and that City Council created the legislation based on perception and not data.
“I think the public being able to vote is accurate and correct,” he said. “But the legislation that they vote on should be correct, should be able to be initiated and should be something that will result in positive measures. If you don’t have that in place, it’s unfair to the voting public.”
The Locust Club had sued to stop the Police Accountability Board legislation from getting on the ballot. The union won a temporary injunction, but that was overturned. That legal tussle was over only whether the issue should be on the ballot. Legal points of the legislation were not addressed.
At the news conference, Mazzeo laid out his argument for why the proposed PAB is unnecessary. He pointed to existing accountability that starts with supervisors and includes a civilian review board, the criminal justice system and body worn cameras. He said the PAB would cost city taxpayers about $1 million a year. He said complaints are a small fraction of all calls for service. He said that in 2018, there were 319,550 calls and 17 complaints. So far for 2019, there was 13 civilian complaints and 18 internally generated complaints. He did not have the number of calls for service.
Mazzeo also said the Locust Club has received a few calls about potential electioneering based on the words poll workers are using to remind city voters that the ballot is printed on both sides.
“Poll workers are saying, ‘Don’t forget to vote for the referendum,’” Mazzeo said. “I can understand what’s trying to be said, but the Board of Elections made it clear to us that creates confusion and it’s not correct.”
Colleen Anderson, Democratic Commissioner for the Monroe County Board of Elections, said the board has received three calls related to the referendum. One was from Mazzeo reporting the calls made to the Locust Club. One was from a person who said no poll worker told her the ballot was two-sided.
Anderson said the board called the polling sites and poll workers were reminded to say, “This is a two-sided ballot.” Anderson said that ballots at early polling places are printed on demand, and that ballots for city voters have an arrow at the bottom of each side.
Mazzeo said the Locust Club was considering have poll watchers in place on Nov. 5.
The Police Accountability Board Alliance sent a mailer to city residents, urging them to vote for the board. Asked if the Locust Club would appeal directly to voters in a similar manner, Mazzeo said officers were getting the message out by serving the residents of the city.