In response to Police Accountability Board proposal and what roadblocks there are to the proposal.
In many respects this report provides a thorn. The situation we have is not a new one, but we have not had enough of a thorn to get us moving, and this is what is happening with this report.
I am committed to ensuring the creation of an accessible, credible, accountable, transparent police civilian review board.
There are many elements that can work, but there are some that are frankly not going to work.
There needs to the same enthusiasm and determination to change some of the laws that govern the way we handle this right now. Such as 50-A that governs the way police discipline is handled.
Additionally, we have the union contract. Many of the items will have to be negotiated. Negotiation means you give up something to get something. We will definitely have to have a community conscience about what we are willing to give up, in order to get some of the things we want.
I believe we will achieve much of what is in this report.
I have seen enough death in my life, friends getting killed not so much by police, but I do understand the point of the day after.
My mother always told me, “If you don’t condemn, you condone it”. So for all this time the city has condoned it. There is no reason for this to have been going on this long. There is no police officer that should be getting paid after doing something like that. Nowhere should it be allowed, therefore this board should happen and it should have happened a long time ago.
We will need to work in concert with police union leadership. But we also need to be talking to our state partners. Because in order for us to be able to make some these changes we really are going to need some advocacy at state level.
One roadblock is the actual appointments to the police accountability board. The proposal calls for eleven officials. It is a combination of election and appointed. There are some specific requirements for those and I see some potential issues with the requirement for there being absolutely no one involved with prior law enforcement or any type of police background. And the reason I say this is because as a elected official, I’m not sure if can dictate who can have what type of background if they are elected. So I think that might possibly have to be modified.
For the training, we want no involvement from RPD, so we will definitely need to find a company to be able to provide the intensive training that is required.
So there are barriers and there are ways to combat it, but we will have to take it piece by piece.
Trauma is part of the the challenge that we need to deal with. Something has to be different.
We give the police great power, but with great power comes great responsibility.
The number of known situations has changed dramatically with cameras. In fact the best gift I gave my kids was a dash cam, because we all need a dash cam now just to keep an eye on what is happening.
This report shows that too many names showed up too many times. The same people over and over again.
In regards to the four pillars of the proposal, independence: Yes. Power to investigate: Yes. Subpoena power: Yes. Discipline: that needs to be negotiated and that is very important.
And a roadblock will be that the training will take a long time.
I fully support an independent review board with the power to investigate and the power to subpoena and the power to discipline.
Because without these things we will continue to have a police depart that is not being held accountable for their abuses in the community, like in the cases of Rickey Bryant, Benny Warr, and Phyllis Harmon.
And we must address the root of this problem, which is institutional racism and the fear that this creates. I will introduce legislation to mandate racial bias training not only for the police officers but for the officials. Because we need to recognize this bias in ourselves.
The biggest roadblock is convincing those who will be judged by this board that this is in their best interest, this will make their jobs easier and make the community safer.
Do I support the proposal? Yes. What will I do if you elect me? In my first hundred days in office, I will hold meetings like this. We have to continue to have communication on this topic. That is how we are going to push it forward.
It is easy to have these conversations when people are running because they want your vote. But what are they going to do the day after? I am going to continue the conversation. And then we can tailor together how this thing is going to work.
It is collaboration, cost, community, and conversation.
We have a system that is broken and it needs to be fixed.
I think it is important we have an independent board because it provides checks to what we are currently doing. And the training that is implied underneath that is also very important. We need to make sure the people on this board are adequately trained. The power to investigate and obtain the records of the PSS (RPD’s Professional Standards Section) are very important to this process. The ability to subpoena is critical to solving these issues. The power to discipline, being able to make a recommendation to the chief, is a vital part of this as well.
In terms of barriers, clearly we have issues with state law and we have issues with the police contract that we need to address. It is going to require collaboration with the Locust Club and ongoing conversations so that we can meet somewhere and have a conversation about this.
Another issue I have with this is follow through. If you look at the current legislation that exists, one of the biggest problems with it is that we are not doing what it says. We are not appointing a board consistently. And if we are not going to follow through on that, we need to ensure that everyone is holding elected officials accountable once legislation is passed.
Also I want to ensure that the community groups appointing representatives on the board are representative.
I have been a computer security specialist for 17 years. When I got in this field there was this basic principle called separation of duties. With separation of duties, no single person is given the authority to execute two conflicting duties.
The police department lacks separation of duties. When you think about body cameras, that officer is not only wearing the camera but also controls when the camera turns on and when the camera turns off. That violates separation of duties.
If an officer has an issue and there is a hearing but his friends on the force and the police chief are in charge of that hearing, that is failure of separation of duties.
We need to educate the police that this a basic concept that they violate every day.
I support this PAB because it is a tool. A tool that we need that I can have in my pocket to protect me and hold cops accountable.
When I worked with the police officers for the endorsement of the police union they said they are looking to do a police accountability board. Their biggest issue was that they were not looking for community members to be on this police accountability board. So I suggested to them you add lawyers, add people who have been affected [by police misconduct], you add community people and you also add officers.
All four elements in the Police Accountability Board report are incredibly important.
I think there is a question of whether someone with a police background would be able to serve or not. I think that those legalities need to be worked out. But I also would suggest that it may also be a good thing if one or two of the seats on this independent police accountability board had the perspective of a former RPD member who lives in the community.
When it comes to investigation, and subpoena I think those without question are the critical pieces and I think they are less controversial.
The hard thing is going to be the power to discipline. But I would take a harder line. Without question if we have to give something up that is what we don’t give up. There is no teeth to this accountability board, if there is not an ability to discipline.
Syracuse is routinely used as the police accountability board that is doing good work, yet the Syracuse board does not have the power to discipline. 18% of the proposed cases [in Syracuse] are being disciplined because it is ultimately the police chief who has the opportunity to say yes or no. 18% is better than what we have in Rochester but it is not enough. So I would argue without question we have to fight for the power to discipline.
I feel the board should be a fully independent, a fully civilian led board. There should be full and separate power to investigate with subpoena power. The board should have full power to make and recommend disciplinary action deemed appropriate and necessary.
The roadblock is the willingness of city government to pass and implement this plan.
I am in full support of this plan and this is exactly what Rochester needs.
We cannot have this conversation without African Americans who are disproportionally affected by these issues. Black Americans are disproportionately affected when it comes to arrests. So this proposal will not solve the structural problems of the criminal justice system but it an important first step.
Of course there will be roadblocks. I have been working in government a long time there is always roadblocks. But we have some brilliant people in this community and in this country that can help us work around these roadblocks so that we can have confidence on the police side as well as the community side. If we put our heads together, we can come up with a good solution to build a strong system that makes everyone feel better about what we have to do in our community to strengthen our community as it relates to police relations.
Do not let anyone tell you that race is not a part of this.
I am in agreement with the plan here. I definitely think we need transparency, accountability, subpoena power, and the power to discipline.
State law prevents us from requiring police officers to live in the city, but we can pay them a bonus for living in the city. Which I think would go a long way, because people need to live here in the city and they need to see how people live and understand and be a part of the community.
I realize there may some issues with collective bargaining. One of the ways we got here was during the 1980s police departments were running low on money. And what they did in negotiations was they were offered participation in management instead of raises. So I don’t have a problem going back the other way and saying if you give up disciplinary protections like we want, then we can give you a raise in return.
I do agree with the police accountability suggestion.
But I want to talk about the day after. The day after, there are children out here crying. The day after, there are young boys out here that are hurting. I used to leave this school [East High School] and get harassed by police all the time growing up. I work with young people day to day. We have to be strong as a community because when they look at us, when they see a young man getting beaten right in front of them and there is nothing that we can do to stop this or make a change or ask for that police officer to step down, we are not being accountable to our children.
We need to think about how are we going to shape our young black males, our young black females in this community to have that confidence and that strength to know that the minute they step into that courthouse, that minute they step into city hall we got their back and they know that officer is going to pay for what he did to me or my cousin or my sister or my friends. So I want us to always stand tall and together to think about how we are also accountable to our young people in our community.