PAB - EO 203 Working Group Materials

In October, the Police Accountability Board was invited to participate in the City of Rochester’s Working Group on Police Reform & Reinvention. The Working Group was convened by Mayor Warren to fulfill Governor Cuomo’s Executive Order 203 and create a reform plan that City Council must of approve by April 2021. All Working Group participants were asked to submit answers to questions about the City’s policing practices and potential changes to those practices.

 

“In every discussion about policing, our community must be heard,” said Board Chair Shani Wilson. “The Board’s job is to make sure community voices are listened to in this process. After weeks of conducting policy research, examining our city’s history, and collecting community testimonials on big picture questions about policing, the Board has drafted a preliminary set of answers to the Working Group’s questions. We are releasing those draft answers to Rochesterians in the hopes that they will help us devise a final set of answers.”  

  The Board's draft answers can be found HERE.

While the Board needs additional data to come to firm conclusions, its initial answers contain notable tentative findings, such as:

 

·         Rochester has twice as many police officers per resident than the average similarly sized city.

·         The Rochester Police Department has used practices widely seen as controversial or harmful.

·         The RPD may lack an internal culture that keeps its officers and Rochesterians fully safe.

·         Rochesterians from many backgrounds appear to want a thorough reimagining of public safety, rather than piecemeal reform.

 

“These tentative findings have led us to make a set of preliminary recommendations,” said Wilson. “These initial proposals aim to serve as a starting point for community discussion. The feedback we receive will help the Board learn what first steps toward a reimagining of public safety this Working Group should take.”

 

The Board’s key initial recommendations are that, by the end of 2021, the City should:

 

·        drastically expand staffing for and use of first responder systems that substitute police officers with social workers and mental health providers;

·        support a community-led process to educate Rochesterians about how the City’s limited public safety dollars can be spent, learn the spending priorities of city residents, and develop a budget that reflects those priorities in staffing and funding levels;

·        create trainings and disciplinary policies that end RPD’s use of breathing restrictions like chokeholds, chemical weapons like tear gas, protest response devices like sound cannons, and high-risk practices like no-knock warrants;

·        boost funding for training, prevention, and response systems within RPD that address work-related stress and trauma in ways that shield officers, their families, and the people they serve;

·        make policing transparent by collecting and releasing comprehensive data on the RPD’s enforcement patterns, internal culture, and policing practices while making public all aspects of officer training; and

·        protect residents and officers by investigating and dismantling structures of white supremacy, misogyny, homophobia, and transphobia that may exist in the RPD’s culture and practices.

 

How Can You Comment On The Draft Answers & Learn More?

City residents and Rochester community organizations may submit comments, including proposed additions and revisions, to the Board by emailing pab@cityofrochester.gov or completing the comment form available here. Comments are due by January 15, 2021 and will be reviewed on a rolling basis. The Board will be holding an informational session over Zoom in early January to educate the public about the Working Group, the Board’s draft answers, and the process for submitting public comments.