Appeals court agrees to hear case for giving back Police Accountability Board’s disciplinary powers
ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WHEC)— The push to give the Rochester Police Accountability Board its dispensary powers will again be heard in court.
According to the PAB’s legal counsel, the New York Court of Appeals, the state’s highest court, agreed to hear the board’s appeal on a previous decision to strip it of the powers. This would be the second time a court will listen to an appeal after state Appellate Division judges upheld the ruling in June.
The judge ruled the PAB did not have the authority to discipline police officers under the law because that was not a part of the union’s collective bargaining agreement.
Attorneys say the high court was not required to hear the appeal from the lower court’s ruling.
A BACKGROUND ON THE BOARD
The board has not had any disciplinary powers since before its first meeting in January of 2020. The powers were first stripped by a temporary injunction. A Supreme Court Justice then ruled in May 2020 that the PAB could not legally discipline officers because of the union agreement. The Rochester City Council began the appeals process in June of 2020.
The board did receive a boost in its budget. First, New York State put aside roughly $500,000 for the board, and then, Mayor Lovely Warren approved for the board to be fully funded at $5 million as part of the city’s budget. At the time, the board said the money would help them hire 55 staff members, and the three bureaus would focus on officer accountability, systemic change, and a bureau of administration.
But, there has been some tension between the board and city council leaders. The board, which was created due in part to help from the council, held a news conference in September saying the council refused to let the organization operate independently on critical decisions, such as hiring staff to help with the board’s investigations.
Council President Loretta Scott, who helped oversee the board’s creation said she supported the board but pushed back on its effectiveness so far.
Scott claims the board has yet to investigate a single civilian complaint against an officer. The board was solidified in January of 2020 after the majority of Rochester voters approved of the Police Accountability Board referendum in November of 2019.
The board did, however, launch an investigation into RPD conduct including two separate pepper-spraying arrests either involving children or in the presence of children, as well as the death of Tyshon Jones, who was shot and killed as he charged at officers with a knife.
The city’s charter gives the board the ability to hire outside counsel, and the ability to obtain records through subpoenas.
Scott, who did not seek reelection, reiterated council’s support for the board Wednesday.
“We look forward to continuing the fight to reinstate the PAB’s deserved disciplinary powers," Scott said. "We thank our legal team and the citizens of Rochester for their steadfast support of the PAB."
An exact court date was not listed.