The Rochester Coalition for Police Reform, a social justice group led by the Rev. Lewis Stewart, is calling for abolishing the current Civilian Review Board and replacing it with a new board with much stronger oversight powers. The current board doesn’t have the power to independently investigate complaints, or subpoena testimony or evidence, and has no authority to discipline officers, Stewart said at an event yesterday.
The way civilian complaints about police misconduct are handled shows a history of bias against African-American and Latino citizens in Rochester, Stewart said at a press conference yesterday.
The coalition is seeking a new board that would be autonomous and would have the ability to conduct investigations, call witnesses, and recommend discipline.
Much of the coalition’s call for change stems from a two-year investigation into civilian complaints about excessive force by Rochester police officers. The authors of the report, activists Barbara Lacker-Ware and Ted Forsyth, examined 1,200 complaints between 2002-2015, and found that only 2 percent were sustained by the Chief of Police, and only 5 percent by the Civilian Review Board.
During the 14 years reviewed by the investigation, the harshest penalties police officers stemming from excessive-force complaints were six suspensions, the report says.
The coalition will continue its campaign for change through a series of forums that are yet to be scheduled, Stewart said.