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Police Accountability Board backers call on Council to free up agency’s funding 

click to enlarge From left, Police Accountability Board Alliance members Wanda Wilson, Roberta Davis, and Shirley Thompson.

PHOTO BY GINO FANELLI

From left, Police Accountability Board Alliance members Wanda Wilson, Roberta Davis, and Shirley Thompson.

A group of Police Accountability Board supporters on Wednesday called for the Rochester City Council to stop withholding funding from the agency and to swiftly approve its selections for vacant board seats.

The demand came from the Police Accountability Board Alliance, which is a coalition of city residents who for years campaigned for the creation of the Police Accountability Board. Voters overwhelmingly approved the board’s creation during a 2019 referendum. The alliance is responsible for selecting four of the appointees to the nine-member board.

In May, City Council authorized an independent investigation into internal issues at the Police Accountability Board and required any spending by the board to get approval from City Council President Miguel Melendez or, in his absence, City Council Chief of Staff James Smith. Council also placed a hiring freeze on the board.

“This is an unprecedented act of control over what is supposed to be an independent board,” said Wanda Wilson, a founding member of the Alliance. “Current oversight of the PAB is out of line with other independent government agencies.”

The city’s investigation of PAB will look into complaints of mismanagement and racial discrimination lodged against suspended Executive Director Conor Dwyer Reynolds and sexual harassment complaints lodged by Reynolds against former board Chair Shani Wilson, who resigned from the post om June 10.

Last week, Council approved the city’s 2022-23 budget, which included $5 million for the PAB. But that funding comes with a caveat. The board will, under the plan, receive half of its budget up front. The board and Council will hold bi-monthly meetings to determine if the board is meeting its stated goals and purpose and if that’s happening after six months, the PAB would get the rest of its budget.

The board has said that it plans to take 480 complaints of police misconduct from the public in the coming year and complete 125 investigations. Those are the same metrics the board put forward last year, its first year with a full budget, but it failed to take any complaints or perform any investigations during that time.

On Monday, the board formally began taking complaints, and is expected to begin investigations in coming weeks

By city law, the Alliance selects four people to fill seats, which are then required to be approved by Council. The Alliance’s original appointees were former Chair Shani Wilson, Ida Perez, Danielle Tucker, and Arlene Brown.

The board currently has two vacancies created by the resignation of Perez, who left the board in March, and Shani Wilson. The Alliance said three names have been submitted as candidates for the two vacancies on the board.

The Alliance declined to comment on who the three nominees are.

“The hesitancy of the Council to approve the Alliance’s nomination is creating a lack of community representation on the Board,” Wanda Wilson said. .

Gino Fanelli is a CITY staff writer. He can be reached at (585) 775-9692 or gino@rochester-citynews.com.
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