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City Council starts work on police-oversight changes 

Rochester's City Council is preparing to work on "possible changes" to the way complaints about police misconduct are reviewed, Council President Loretta Scott has announced. And, Scott said in a statement, "Council anticipates that these changes will be substantive and will ultimately require legislation."

At a meeting yesterday, Council members reviewed a study of Rochester's current review process, prepared by the Center for Governmental Research. That report, which Council commissioned early this year, also includes a summary of review systems of other cities. It does not include recommendations for changes Rochester should make.

Council will hold public meetings "in early 2018" to get comments from the community, Scott said. And she said Council hopes to vote on legislation in April "so that the changes can take effect on July 1 2018, with the start of the new fiscal year."

How substantive the changes will be is a key question, however. In Rochester's current system, a citizen panel reviews investigations of complaints about police. It does not conduct the investigations itself. Those are done by police, who have previously resisted more involvement in the investigations.

As the CGR report notes, state civil service law specifies that the police chief makes decisions about the discipline of police officers, and those decisions can't be made public. In addition, changes to the current oversight process have to be negotiated with the police union.

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