Rochester's mayor has come out in favor of a police accountability board with significant powers, proposing an independent panel to review and investigate actions of police officers that would have the ability to issue subpoenas and set up discipline levels.
Touting her proposal as landmark, Lovely Warren said in a statement that the nine-member board would have full investigative powers. Previous drafts from City Council omitted clear delineations of independence, information gathering, and freedom to investigate complaints.
"If they didn't like the results or thought that there was something missing then they would have the ability to hire an investigator to actually investigate it further and then make a recommendation to the police chief," said Warren. "At the end of the day, the police chief will continue to have the final say and the power as it pertains to disciplinary procedures."
Calls for increased police accountability grew louder after two officers were suspended for allegedly using excessive force when they arrested a Christopher Pate, who says he was beaten, shocked with a taser and verbally offended in May on Fulton Avenue.
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Warren had said categorized the police body cam footage from that incident as "egregious," and before resigning to accept a federal job, then-Chief Michael Ciminelli called it a failure by the police department.
According to city hall, the board would be comprised by three members directly appointed by the mayor, three by Council, and three by the Police Accountability Board Alliance, which has long pushed for such an investigative body.
A representative for United Christian Leadership Ministry says they feel this is a step in the right direction.
"We feel that the police accountability board is a representative of the community. If we're talking about building trust, if we're talking about building legitimacy than we feel, and i'm adamant about that, that the majority of the people represented on the PAB must be members of the community," said Reverend Lewis Stewart.
If it becomes reality, that board could recommend disciplinary action to the chief. Should the chief disagree with the findings of an investigation, the proposed legislation would require him to explain his reasoning to the board.
The projected cost in the first year, including one-time startup costs, is estimated between $260,000 and $300,000.