ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — The group of volunteers appointed to oversee Rochester’s Police Accountability Board welcomed its third executive director in a year as they hope to move past the drama and dysfunction that played out in 2022.

The board’s first director, Conor Dwyer Reynolds, was suspended for personnel violations which prompted an external investigation, multiple harassment complaints and several lawsuits. Staff later called for the termination of the interim director Duwaine Bascoe, who has since returned to his initial role as chief of investigations.

“We had an interesting year our first year, a lot of growing pains,” said PAB Chair Larry Knox. “Let’s keep the focus of the board, staff and leadership. The community voted in 2019 for accountability, and we have to make sure we do a better job providing that. I feel confident we’re going to do that this year.”

The new interim executive director is Sherry Walker-Cowart. She attended Thursday’s board meeting.  In the two days she’s been on the job, she says she’s met with various staff and members of leadership to determine important next steps.  

Knox noted the penalties the City Council imposed on the PAB in December, including an extension of a hiring freeze and a budget cut, as well as a proposal to remove some of PAB’s authority.

“We will follow up with council,” Knox said. “There is a lot we need clarity on and want to make sure we know what the goals are.”

In 2019, voters approved a referendum to establish an agency to investigate complaints against the Rochester Police Department for misconduct and other abuses  of power.  PAB Board members, city leaders and PAB staff agree the agency has spent a lot of time dealing with internal distractions. Those disruptions have caused community members to question whether the PAB is capable of doing the job it was created to perform.    

“We’re real excited about Sherry starting,” Knox said. “We have a lot of work that the community is expecting us to do. We want to make sure it’s our priority to get things done.”