City extends priority access agreement of body worn camera footage/data with UCLM

ROCHESTER, N.Y. — Rochester Mayor Malik Evans says he’ll prioritize information sharing with United Christian Leadership Ministry, a coalition of City ministers who see themselves as a watchdog of sorts over the Rochester Police Department. 

The Mayor and Police Chief signed a memorandum of understanding with UCLM, promising expedited responses to Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) requests for body camera video, reports and quarterly reports on use-of-force incidents. 

“Our partnership has basically been to be supportive of the police when they’re doing the right thing and to be the drum majors for justice and to remain objective when they’re doing the wrong things,” explains Bishop Dwight Fowler, the President of UCLM.   The original memorandum of understanding with then-Mayor Lovely Warren was signed a few years ago and promised FOIL requests, if approved, would be granted within 5 days.  

The MOU with Mayor Malik Evans was recently renewed and is almost word-for-word the same except it promises to expedite BWC FOIL requests within 10 days, “we are working to establish trust, so if we can trust the police officers, those that are in leadership, to honor the memorandum, then of course, that will help foster ongoing trust between the police officers and the community, Bishop Fowler explains.

UCLM advocated for the creation of the Police Accountability Board and when asked if the MOU is redundant to the work that agency is doing, “well, I don’t like to tell other people what their job is, I know what my job is, but I do believe that the police accountability board is moving in the right direction,” Bishop Fowler says.

The Rochester Police Department explains the difference, “PAB does not need to file FOIL requests, PAB requests documents, requests videos, requests information from us and we have a constant sharing of information with the PAB regarding their active investigations and whatever information they request from us, UCLM will still have to file FOIL requests,” says Sgt. Greg Bello, “in regards to the specific videos themselves, they (UCLM) go through the FOIL process, just like anybody else would go through the FOIL process, and every FOIL request is answered as expeditiously as possible.”

When asked about the priority access, “I don’t know if we have better access than anyone else. I just know that it’s something we’ve been working on most likely longer than anyone else, and I suspect that if others worked toward the same goal, they would accomplish the same achievements,” Bishop Fowler says. 

Both Bello and Fowler say the partnership is about more than just getting quick access to BWC video, “the transparency is not sending them videos quicker than everybody else that they can then put on TV or put out wherever they want,” Sgt. Bello says, “the transparency is are we following our policies? What’s the data behind the videos?   

Are officers taking or not taking them at times?  And are there corrections that we need to make, are we not taking enough videos? Are we not following our own policies? That’s the point of it.”

A copy of the MOU is below: