Legislation would create new police accountability board in Rochester with increased powers

Local News

Mayor Lovely Warren has submitted legislation to City Council that would create a new police accountability board to review complaints involving Rochester police officers.

According to Mayor Warren, the new board would have “unprecedented powers to investigate complaints as well as work toward better policies related to the use of force.” The new board would have the power to subpoena and compel testimony.

The mayor adds, “This will improve public safety by improving the public’s trust, creating a fully transparent investigative process that’s fair to both the community and our officers.”

The mayor says three of the nine-member panel would be chosen directly by the mayor’s office, three would be recommended to the mayor by a community organization (the Police Accountability Board Alliance) and the remaining three members would be recommended by City Council. Board members will in turn launch a search for an executive director. Board members would also serve three-year terms, staggered after the initial appointees.

While the board would have the power to recommend charges and discipline, the police chief would have final say on how to deal with accused officers — a point of criticism by activists of the current system. If the chief disagrees with the board’s recommendation, he would be required to explain his reasoning in a message to the board. 

In a message on its website regarding the proposal, the the Police Accountability Board Alliance highlighted this among its problems with the legislation.

“Council’s draft does not give the PAB real disciplinary power, but rather it leaves final disciplinary power with the Chief of police, thereby maintaining the status quo,” the alliance writes.

The new legislation comes a month after after the indictment of a Rochester police officer in November for assault in a reported case of police brutality.

In that case, the Rochester Police Department says Officer Michael Sippel and another officer pulled over Christopher Pate in May, mistaking him for a wanted man. Even after Pate provided identification to prove he was who he said, the department says the officers attacked and tased Pate, fracturing his skull and jaw, then arrested him anyway. Charges were ultimately dropped against Pate. The other officer was not indicted in the attack.

News 8 has reached out to Rochester police and the Rochester Police Locust Club for reaction.

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