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City Council president wants more independent police review process


City Council may push for stronger civilian involvement in the review of actions by Rochester police.

City Council President Loretta Scott said this afternoon that she favors some form of an independent civilian review process, something community activists have urged for years.

Under current city law, a civilian group - the Center for Dispute Settlement - does review cases involving complaints about police misconduct. The investigations into the complaints, however, are done by the Professional Standards Section of the Rochester Police Department. And the police chief decides whether the complaint is well founded and whether there should be any disciplinary action against the  officer. None of that is made public.
City Council President Loretta Scott. - FILE PHOTO
  • City Council President Loretta Scott.

City Council does have the authority to review the material submitted to the Professional Standards Section, and to interview witnesses. But Council can make little, if any, of that information public.

As a result of the outcry over police handling of an incident involving 18-year-old Ricky Bryant Jr. last August, Council is preparing to issue a subpoena for the records about police action in that case. Despite its authority to do so, it has never before taken that step.

In a statement last week, Scott and Council member Adam McFadden said that what they find will "allow Council the opportunity to further analyze the civilian review process and how it can be improved." Scott said today that it's time for a change in the review process.

While reviews by an independent group won't always satisfy members of the community, she said, it's clear that the current process lacks credibility in the community.

"I'm hoping that there's a way to advance the process so the community can have confidence that there is accountability," Scott said.

Creating a new review process will be complicated. Local laws, the police union contract, and state law provide protections for officers - confidentiality guarantees, for instance -  that City Council can't change on its own. Any changes to the current process will have to conform to the existing contract and laws. But Scott said members of Council recognize that changes, including more transparency in the process, are needed.