ROCHESTER, N.Y (WROC) — The Rochester Police Accountability Board is accusing the city of preventing its agency from moving forward on investigating the nearly 100 complaints of misconduct they’ve received from the public since launching on June 20.
PAB claims they’ve been denied access to body cam footage and other police records.
Investigators with the PAB argue they need direct access to the Rochester police database system for immediate access to body cam footage, personnel records, and other documents to do their job. But the city argues its charter does not allow this and all requests should be made to RPD.
This dispute stems from the Police Accountability Board’s last board meeting where members accused the City Council and the mayor’s office of putting obstacles in the way of investigation.
Council President Miguel Melendez responded this is only due to legal reasons.
“There’s a question of what access means at this point,” President Melendez said. “Access for the administration’s standpoint and I don’t want to speak for them directly but it’s really making sure they have every single document requested that they want to get. But at this point, there are also some concerns of having individuals with direct access at this time.”
A closer look at the law which created PAB states “RPD and the city shall provide to the board, as requested access to all documents and evidence.” Including RPD Personnel files, all other RPD databases, investigative files, and video and audio recordings from body cameras.
PAB argues this shows the City Charter is on the agency’s side.
“We have tried some backchannels to negotiate how to gain the access that is required,” said Duwaine Bascoe, Interim Executive Director of the Police Accountability Board. “At this point, those backchannels have failed.”
PAB members are also frustrated city council has not appointed applicants they feel are properly vetted to staff their board. Council President Melendez argued with all the internal shake-ups at PAB they want to make sure they bring in the best candidates.
“We have two openings,” president Melendez explained. “One that’s been open for about 90 days or so and another that’s within the 60-day range for us to appoint. So, at this point, we’re a little outside the timing. But we want to make sure our process is right.”
According to mayor Malik Evans’ office, few requests have officially been made from the Police Accountability Board for RPD records tied to official investigations. Administration staff also denied he has refused to provide any essential materials to PAB.
Rochester police would not comment on the legal process for obtaining body cam footage and other personnel records. But a second meeting is coming up with PAB later this month to ensure they abide by the city charter.
Full statement from the PAB
“The PAB has made and continues to make, every attempt to resolve the dispute regarding access to RPD databases with the City’s Corporation Counsel, as outlined in Chapter 18-3 section H of the City’s Charter. The PAB was guaranteed access to RPD personnel files, body camera footage, policy details, and more to investigate the many complaints we have already received from the community.
The statements from Corporation Counsel are at best, mischaracterizations of the situation. Our goal is to provide transparency and accountability. We hope that this is a shared goal and that we can work together to accomplish it.”
Full statement from the mayor’s office
“The City of Rochester has not refused to provide any records or body-worn camera footage to the PAB. The PAB has been advised, for numerous legal reasons, that they cannot directly access RPD databases, and that all requests for records should be made to the RPD and will be honored in a timely fashion. To date, very few requests have been made, and all requests for records and video have been fully fulfilled.”