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Scott predicts progress, regardless of PAB vote 

Rochester took its most dramatic step yet last week in a decades-long search for a better system of police oversight.

In a unanimous vote, City Council passed legislation creating an independent Police Accountability Board. The legislation still faces a public referendum, and it will be on the ballot in the November election. But if it fails, Council President Loretta Scott says, Council will rewrite the legislation to eliminate its most controversial part and will vote on it again.

click to enlarge Supporters of Police Accountability Board legislation celebrated following City Council's vote last week. - PHOTO BY EFUA AGYARE-KUMI
  • PHOTO BY EFUA AGYARE-KUMI
  • Supporters of Police Accountability Board legislation celebrated following City Council's vote last week.
The current legislation establishes a nine-member board, with a professional staff, that would work with the Rochester Police Department to review and write department policy and investigate complaints about police misconduct. It requires extensive transparency about investigations.

The board would also determine discipline in cases where complaints have been sustained. Currently, the mayor has that authority, and through the police officers' union contract, she has delegated it to the police chief.

Transferring that authority to the Accountability Board requires a referendum, and without that section, no public vote is needed. The police officer's union is expected to sue if Council's legislation goes into effect, in part because of the discipline section.

Mayor Lovely Warren had proposed legislation similar to Council's, but it omitted the discipline transfer. The union has also been opposed to the mayor's legislation, but if Council passed new legislation that excluded the discipline section, it would likely have a better chance in court.

The revised law would still include major reforms. If Council has to write new legislation, Scott said last week, "I believe we will still have made progress improving on the process we have now."

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