News & Opinion » News

Rochester voters overwhelmingly approve Police Accountability Board


Rochester voters overwhelmingly approve Police Accountability Board

City of Rochester voters on Tuesday overwhelmingly approved the creation of Police Accountability Board, setting the stage for a legal challenge from the union representing city police.

Whether to create such a board was put to voters in the form of a referendum that, with about 50 percent of election districts reporting, passed by a vote of 76 to 23 percent.

The board would have the power to review accusations of officer misconduct and to require the police chief to punish officers when the allegations are sustained. Under current law, only the police chief has the power to discipline officers.

Under the law that created the board, the City Council, Mayor Lovely Warren, and the Police Accountability Board Alliance - a coalition of community organizations that championed the creation of the board - now have 90 days to get the board on its feet.

That means choosing nine members, and hiring an executive director and several full-time staff members to work on its behalf. Alliance members said they have already begun making its choices.

Once the board is chosen and the staff hired, members will have to learn police regulations so they can determine whether officers have violated them. They'll also have to create a disciplinary matrix to figure out which punishments are applicable for which violations.

Alliance members say they want input from the public, the Rochester Police Department, and the Rochester Police Locust Club, which is the police union. But it's unlikely that the Locust Club would participate, given that it is expected to challenge the viability of the board in court.

The union already filed one lawsuit to keep the referendum off the ballot and to get the law that created the board struck down. The union wasn't successful, but Michael Mazzeo, president of the Rochester Locust Club has made it clear that more litigation is coming.

Mazzeo has said repeatedly that the board violates collective bargaining agreements, due process rights as well as state and federal laws.