Rochester PAB short three board members; delays in hiring 

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ROCHESTER, N.Y. – The Rochester Police Accountability Board has canceled two meetings in one month because it didn’t have enough board members. The board says it’s trying to fill three vacancies as it continues to work on complaints from the public.

Members of the PAB are calling on the Rochester City Council to approve potential staffing with an emergency meeting in the next week. But according to city council president, that’s unlikely.

Wanda Wilson is part of the Police Accountability Board Alliance. She’s been advocating for the PAB’s existence since 2017. Once it launched, she’s continued her support through the alliance, which she calls an important part of the organization.

“We need the community to know that the agency is functioning pretty well,” said Wilson. “Considering the hindrances and the barriers we’ve had to deal with when it comes to city council.”

Wilson says the PAB has been calling on City Council to take immediate action in hiring prospective candidates.

Three seats are vacant. One of them has been left empty for 300 days. The position for PAB board chair hasn’t been permanently filled for months

According to City Council President Miguel Melendez, the council is in charge of interviewing, and hiring.

“I can assure you and the public, we have been going through the process of interviewing,” said Melendez. “We have had instances where candidates have withdrawn, for various reasons, candidates rescheduled, and there was even a time we were looking at our own processes in terms of how we do the interviews and all of that. So it’s been a combination of challenges.”

But Wilson said the longer they go without filling the roles, the harder it is to do the work of fulfilling over 200 complaints filed by people in the community.

“Right now, staff cannot really do their job 100 percent when it comes to investigations, because they’re not being able to access the RPD databases,” said Wilson. “The holdup is not the agency itself, but the lack of support we are receiving from City Council, and one of the matters City Council needs to make decisions on, one being staffing, one being budgeting is hindering the success of the agency.”

According to Melendez, delays are holding the process up, meaning that filling the board vacancies is unlikely before the next City Council meeting on April 25.

“I know this is complicated,” Melendez said. “We are also not in charge of interviewing and hiring the ‘staff,’ but we are approving the positions they can hire for. We are in charge of filling the three board seats that are currently vacant.”

In the time being, he’s asking the public what they want to see from the PAB, in the form of surveys.

The PAB continues to launch new projects while they wait to fill staffing. On Monday, the PAB also announced it is launching two oversight investigations into current RPD policies. This includes examining the department’s use of pepper spray on juveniles, and how it uses bean bag guns.