A committee investigating the police oversight system in Rochester is preparing to present its recommendations, says City Council member Adam McFadden. The 15-member committee has been meeting since last year to help reform a system that critics say lacks objectivity and transparency and takes too long to get results.
The committee is co-chaired by McFadden and Rochester Police Chief James Sheppard.
McFadden says he will forward the recommendations to City Council members for review, and a public hearing will be set to get feedback on the proposals. Ultimately, Council will have to vote to approve any recommended changes.
Complaints against police officers are investigated by the RPD's Professional Standards Section, and under certain circumstances the PSS's review is vetted by the Center for Dispute Settlement. Interviews with the person lodging the complaint are part of the PSS process and can be part of the CDS process, as well.
Under the committee's recommendation, the complainant would get a paid, trained advocate to advise and guide people through the whole process, McFadden says.
"It would be a citizen who would have the authority to provide oversight of the interview process, of the investigative process, and they could actually stop the interview if they felt it was going in the wrong direction," he says. "Let's say if the question feels more like an interrogation, they can stop it."
McFadden says he'd also like to see the original complaint serve as an official statement, so that the interviews aren't always necessary. As it stands now, only about 40 percent of the people who file a complaint follow through with the interview, he says.
The advocate would also be a liaison between the complainant and PSS and CDS. A frequent criticism of the system is that the complainant isn't always kept informed of where the investigation into the complaint stands.