City, RPD changes policy about minority recruits after News10NBC investigation

January 23, 2019 07:18 PM

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WHEC) -- The City of Rochester says it is going to change how the Rochester Police Department does business because of an ongoing investigation by News10NBC.

This is about a young man whose application to the RPD was stopped when police did not believe he was a minority. 

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The city says it is taking action because of information uncovered by News10NBC. 

In News10NBC's investigation, we found the government document that said RPD candidate Peter Abee was a minority.

The city and RPD did not have this information until it appeared in our investigation.

As a result, RPD is going to put Mr. Abee back on the minority candidate list and it is going to change how it handles minority candidates. 

News10NBC Chief Investigative Reporter Berkeley Brean: "So you're back on the list. How does that feel?" 

Peter Abee: "I'm extremely excited. I'm happy, like I can finally go and hopefully accomplish my goal." 

Peter Abee's dream of being a police officer is back on track.

Last week, News10BC told you how he was removed from the RPD's minority candidate list. When Abee applied last year, he checked the Asian Pacific Islander box.


Abee took an AncestryDNA test that says he's 51 percent Asian Pacific Islander. But in November, Abee says his interview was cut short when RPD questioned his race and told him to prove it with his parents' birth certificates. 

"So I asked him how can I do that if I'm adopted?" Abee said during our interview last week. 

Abee was born in Bulgaria, a country on the border of Europe and Asia, and he was left at an orphanage.

Abee was adopted by Linda Abee from Chili. Photos show they arrived at the Rochester airport in 1993 when Abee was just five years old. 

In our investigation, News10NBC found Abee's adoption decree from the Bulgarian government and it says he is of "minority ethnic origin." 

Because of that information, the mayor's office issued a statement Wednesday saying "the applicant mentioned in recent media reports will be returned to the minority recruitment list based on the information contained in his foreign adoption paperwork." 

But this is not just about Abee's goal of being a cop. 

It's about the RPD's process and the city's policy. Not only did RPD tell Abee to prove he is a minority, they told him to do it with his parents' birth certificates. 

Since the 1930s, the law in New York state prevents adopted children from getting that specific birth information. News10NBC also pointed out that birth certificates in Monroe County have not included race and ethnicity since the 1960s. 

So here's what else our investigation got the city to do. 

In the statement, it says the RPD, the city's human resources department, and the law department "are working collaboratively to develop a formal City policy for determining minority status of RPD applicants. The policy, when defined and approved, will be shared with the public and included in the information provided to all RPD applicants."

Brean: "You played a role to get this city to change the way it does business. How does that make you feel?"

Abee: "I'm actually surprised that I did something to help the city out. So that's actually awesome."

In the statement, the city says this is the only time it knows that a candidate for police was asked to prove his or her minority status. But because it happened, and News10NBC exposed it, the city is going to adopt a formal policy for determining minority status.

Right now, the city calls those DNA tests "unauthenticated."


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Berkeley Brean

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