Updated: May 20, 2020 11:14 PM
Created: May 20, 2020 11:01 PM
ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WHEC) — Rochester police representatives, already skeptical about the city’s Police Accountability Board (PAB), declared their misgivings confirmed when a PAB member joined a rally against police on Wednesday.
Miquel Powell, founder of the Reentry and Community Development Center and a PAB member, joined a demonstration outside the police station on North Clinton Avenue.
“I think the community is fed up, with police mistreatment, brutality,” Powell said. “I think they just want answers today, so I just had to stand with them.”
Powell’s presence raised alarms for the Rochester Police Locust Club police union.
“I think that shows what we’ve been saying,” Locust Club President Mike Mazzeo said. “Here is a member of this PAB board then we are supposed to have faith in, believe in, and believe that he is going to review police officers work with an unbiased and informed review… I think his actions show what our concerns were, and are.”
The PAB was authorized by a citywide referendum last year with a mission to investigate allegations of police misconduct and discipline police, overruling even the chief.
Its disciplinary powers were stripped by a decision of the state supreme court but its advocates, including members of the Rochester City Council, vowed to appeal.
With his appearance Wednesday, Powell joins City Councilmember Willie Lightfoot and City Council Pesident Loretta Scott in their criticism of the RPD over an incident caught on video Sunday.
The issue: police handcuffed a 10-year-old girl when they ended up arresting three people stopped along 104, who claimed to be "sovereign citizens" not subject to state or federal laws.
In a statement afterward, the department said the girl was never arrested and was restrained for her safety on the dangerous busy highway.
The council members, and Mayor Lovely Warren, have called for an investigation and police chief La’Ron Singletary has promised one.
But as a member of the Police Accountability Board, Powell could be part of the team judging incidents like this one. The Locust Club called Powell’s being part of the protest, before any investigation had taken place, a picture of anti-police bias.
"By him not having any facts, not having any information, he simply jumped to a conclusion,” Mazzeo said. “So how could any police officer believe that would be a fair system?”
Powell insisted there was nothing inappropriate about his involvement.
“I'm also a community member,” Powell said. “Sometimes, that’s one of the things with our politicians. They use their title as an excuse not to be with the people. But I think you should always side with the people whenever it’s appropriate.”
Mayor Warren's office declined to comment on Powell's involvement. Inquiries to Councilman Lightfoot and President Scott were not answered Wednesday.
Powell echoed calls from the girl's family for the police involved to be suspended and said there was nothing questionable about him openly taking one side in this dispute. He added that if this particular incident comes before the police accountability board, he’d be willing to recuse himself.
Mazzeo said it's too late for that.
"He can say, in this matter, he steps out,” Mazzeo said. “How does that give us any confidence in any other matter that he will be involved in?”
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