ROCHESTER N.Y. (WROC) — The Rochester Police Accountability Board will not have the power to punish law enforcement for misconduct as decided by the state’s highest court ruling today.
Sherry Walker-Cowart, PAB’s Interim Executive Director says the board was surprised that the ruling came out so quickly and they were disappointed with the decision, but she adds discipline would’ve been just a portion of what they’d do.
“We haven’t had disciplinary power since we started, and we’ve been doing a lot of work. So, we’re going to continue doing that work, making sure we are doing it the best we possibly can of our ability and making sure the community is involved. It’s about transparency, accountability, involving the public. So that will continue to happen,” Walker-Cowart said.
She breaks down what will be expected of the PAB moving forward.
“We will continue to do investigations; we will continue to be as fair and thorough as we can be in gathering information and evidence to the extent possible without compromising anything and report that information to the public so that we can be sure there’s accountability and working with the police department to holding officers accountable for any misconduct that may have been proven. So, we’re going to keep doing that,” she said.
The Locust Club, Rochester’s police union, filed a lawsuit arguing the PAB does not have the authority to discipline officers. In a statement today, President Mike Mazzeo applauded the decision. He writes:
“The formation of the Police Accountability board (PAB) was not about providing true oversight for the betterment of the city. The concept of oversight is about taking a broad view over something, for the purpose of improvement. Oversight is composed of “over”, and “sight”, meaning looking but not touching.
He goes on to say:
“Instead, the PAB was all about going after “allegedly” bad cops, with no concern on providing protection for good cops doing their jobs to the best of their abilities, which means with the tools and resources that they were or were not given.“
Rochester City Council also released a statement saying:
“In 2019, voters demonstrated their commitment to accountability, and by a 3 to 1 margin, Rochesterians voted in favor of the Police Accountability Board and sought to invest disciplinary powers within it. The former Council knew then, as we know now, that establishing such a board would be challenged by those who wish to maintain the status quo. This Council remains committed to accountability in our city, not just for our police department, but all agencies within City government.“
Walker-Cowart says the Board is looking to fill the position of a permanent executive director within the new year.