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Police Accountability Board bleeds more staff 

click to enlarge Staffers of the Police Accountability Board are rallying for recognition of their labor union.

PHOTO BY GINO FANELLI

Staffers of the Police Accountability Board are rallying for recognition of their labor union.

The staff exodus at the Rochester Police Accountability Board worsened this week, as five more employees left amid an increasingly chaotic work environment, according to current and former workers.

Among the employees who left were the four remaining lawyers in the agency’s investigations unit. There were previously six. Meanwhile, an accountability inspector for the agency and a driving force behind an effort by staff to unionize was fired.

Brandy Cooper, the inspector, said Thursday she believed she was let go for trying to unionize, which would be a violation of the National Labor Relations Act.

She said she was given no notice, but received a letter stating that her resignation had been accepted. She insisted she did not submit a resignation or had plans to step down.

“I wasn’t called, it wasn’t confirmed, it wasn’t asked of me if that was my intent or anything,” Cooper said. “There was no conversation with me about resigning.”

Cooper was among a handful of former and current agency workers who gathered at City Hall to call on Mayor Malik Evans and other city officials to recognize the PAB workers’ union before conditions there worsen and the agency loses more employees.

The Police Accountability Board began hiring staff late last year and, since then, has shed about a third of its staff in the last six months, shrinking to 25 workers from 38.

The turmoil comes as the City Council prepares to release its findings from an investigation into the ongoings at the agency. The report is expected to be made public next week, although its release has already been delayed multiple times.

“Today, we stand on the steps of City Hall to call out city leaders who have expressed support for our mission, but have yet to take action,” said Tiffany Heard, an accountability inspector at the PAB. “Today, we gather here to call out their inaction for what it is: anti-union activity.”

The future of any union at the Police Accountability Board rests on its recognition by one person — Evans. The city charter states that the mayor is authorized to recognize any “duly organized union or employee organization” of city employees.

City Councilmember Stanley Martin said Evans recognizing the union might be the only way to save the agency from total collapse.

“To me, this is the only way to save this institution,” Martin said.

The Police Accountability Board was formed by referendum in November 2019 and was tasked with the mission of investigating complaints of police misconduct and recommending policy shifts for the Rochester Police Department.

In 2021, the city alloted the board a $5 million annual budget. The agency received the same amount this year, although Melendez moved to split it in half after the board failed to meet any of its performance goals.

Whether the board receives the second half of its budget will be decided in the coming months.

Correction: An earlier draft of this story referred to Brandy Cooper as a case manager. She's an accountability inspector in the investigations department.

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