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City Council wades into police oversight

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City Council agreed in a meeting last week that improvements to the Civilian Review Board are needed, and Council wants those changes in place by July 1, 2018.

“The Civilian Review Board in its current state lacks community trust, and the Council knows that this is a problem,” Council President Loretta Scott said in a written statement earlier this week. “The Council is committed to making the needed changes and reforms to bring increased transparency and improve this process as a whole.”
City Council member Adam McFadden. - FILE PHOTO
  • FILE PHOTO
  • City Council member Adam McFadden.
Council's concern about the Review Board was spurred by charges of alleged police abuse of teenager Rickey Bryant Jr. Council issued a subpoena earlier this year to obtain information and video footage from the Rochester Police Department regarding the incident.

Council members have reviewed information about the handling of the Bryant case, but as Scott said in her statement, state law "prohibits disclosure of the personnel records of police officers," so Council won't comment further on that review.

Bryant alleges he was thrown off of his bike and beaten by police officers who were responding to a call on August 8, 2016. Though Bryant wasn’t arrested, the encounter left him with multiple injuries. Bryant’s mother filed a complaint with the Civilian Review Board and a lawsuit in Federal District Court alleging that the RPD officers violated her son’s constitutional rights.

But Rochester Police Chief Michael Ciminelli, who has the final say in the CRB process, cleared the officers involved of any misconduct.

“In the case of Rickey Bryant, you have an innocent kid who was doing nothing but riding a bike,” City Council member Adam McFadden said in a phone interview prior to Council’s meeting last week. “That’s all it was. For some reason, he was mistaken for somebody who had a gun.”

McFadden said he found some discrepancies in what police reported and the information and video footage Council obtained. Bryant didn’t fit the description of the individual described in the call to police, McFadden said.

Council also hired the Center for Governmental Research to provide an independent analysis of the Civilian Review Board’s process, how other municipalities handle complaints about police misconduct, and to make a recommendation to Council. In her statement, Scott said the report will be made public once it has been finalized.

“I think we have to look at this situation as what I would call a test case for possibly making changes to the Civilian Review Board process,” McFadden says. There is a lack of trust and credibility in the CRB’s ability to hold anyone accountable, McFadden said.

But McFadden said he doesn’t believe that only the CRB process needs to change.
“There was a time in life when police were given the benefit of the doubt,” he said. “That’s not the case now, and that has nothing to do with the CRB. That has to do with their actions when they’re policing.”


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