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Police Accountability Board names interim leader, readies for investigations 

click to enlarge Police Accountability Board Chief of Investigations Duwaine Bascoe will serve as interim leader of the agency during an investigation into Executive Director Conor Dwyer Reynolds.

PHOTO BY GINO FANELLI

Police Accountability Board Chief of Investigations Duwaine Bascoe will serve as interim leader of the agency during an investigation into Executive Director Conor Dwyer Reynolds.

The Rochester Police Accountability Board has tapped Duwaine Bascoe, its chief of investigations, to serve as its interim leader during an independent investigation into personnel issues at the agency.

Earlier this month, board Executive Director Conor Dwyer Reynolds was suspended over unspecified human resources complaints that came from within the agency.

Bascoe’s appointment comes as the board inches closer toward taking complaints from the public regarding police misconduct and opening investigations into them. During a news conference Friday, board representatives said they expect to begin taking those complaints by June 20. The announcement follows a year of the nascent agency missing several key benchmarks

In the city’s budget for the current year, the board estimated it would take 480 complaints and perform 125 investigations, as well as conduct six oversight investigations. On Thursday, the Board released its first oversight investigation, which focused on police protest response, but has not yet taken any complaints or performed any misconduct investigation. The Rochester Police Department last month announced sweeping changes to its protest response policies, but has yet to publish them.

As the board plans to begin investigations, Bascoe emphasized that the frustration felt by the public toward the board has echoed within the organization. He still sees the goals set in the budget as realistic.

“Building an agency from the ground up is no small task,” Bascoe said. “There’s a lot that goes into it, from developing policies and procedures to developing internal policies and procedures, to the small and mundane of just cleaning up.”

The board also has a June 6 meeting scheduled with the Rochester Police Department to discuss access to information such as body camera videos and internal police documents. Three previous attempts at having the meeting failed to come to fruition.

The Board is three weeks into their new office space at the Democrat & Chronicle building on East Main Street. About a week after the move, Reynolds was placed on administrative leave amid a flurry of human resource complaints. City Council later authorized an independent investigation into personnel matters within the agency. Council also placed a hiring freeze on the agency and placed a requirement on it that all of its spending must be approved by Council President Miguel Melendez.

The specific circumstances behind Reynolds’ suspension remain unclear. Board members and staff have repeatedly declined to comment on the investigation.

The Police Accountability Board was created by referendum in 2019, when Rochesterians voted 3-to-1 to adopt the agency. The Board was established to investigate police officers accused of misconduct and compel discipline.

On Monday, Rochester City Council members grilled Police Accountability Board representatives on the agency’s missed goals for the previous year, during which Councilmember Willie Lightfoot asked, “What do you do all day?”

Former Mayor Lovely Warren included a $5 million allocation for the Police Accountability Board in her 2021-22 budget proposal, which Council kept in the final spending plan it approved. Mayor Malik Evans has included a $5 million allocation for the board in his proposed 2022-23 budget.

Bascoe said about $2.35 million of the allocation for the current budget year remains. He also noted the board is getting closer to developing and releasing policy initiatives.

Notably, the Board plans to release its “disciplinary matrix” to the Rochester Police Department in the coming month. The matrix is a policy recommendation meant to guide the police department on how officers are to be disciplined for various infractions. Officer discipline was one of the “five pillars” that originally formed the Police Accountability Board’s mission.

Given that the Board’s disciplinary powers have, for the time being, been blocked by courts, the matrix would function as a recommendation. The city is appealing the decision that stripped the board of its disciplinary powers.

“Part of our 30-day plan for operation is to release that disciplinary matrix, first to our Board, receive any suggestions from the Board, and then to RPD, the Locust Club, and then we can implement it,” said Michael Higgins, chief of policy and oversight for the board.

Correction: An earlier version of this story referred to the protest response document release by the Police Accountability Board as a major policy proposal. The Board refers to it as an oversight investigation.

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