State Court of Appeals strikes down PAB’s disciplinary powers

Court rules PAB cannot discipline officers

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ROCHESTER, N.Y. — The New York State Court of Appeals has struck down the Rochester Police Accountability Board’s disciplinary powers. You can read the full court decision here.

The Rochester Police Locust Club – the union representing the Rochester Police Department’s more than 800 officers – argued that granting the power to discipline officers violates fair process and collective bargaining rights for city employees. It took the issue to court and the court ruled in the union’s favor.

The PAB, which seeks to investigate police misconduct and recommend policy changes, is run by volunteer board members who are not affiliated with Rochester Police. It’s funded through the city’s budget.

Here is a statement from the PAB about the ruling:

“The Police Accountability Board is disappointed with the decision by the New York State Appellate Court to remove the agency’s disciplinary power. While the ruling is impactful to civilian oversight, the PAB remains committed to conducting rigorous, unbiased investigations into allegations of police misconduct. The agency will continue to recommend appropriate actions and disciplinary measures to the Rochester Police Department based on our findings. The RPD is still required to inform the community if they plan to implement the PAB’s recommendations, a condition outlined in the City Charter and demanded by Rochester voters in 2019.”

Sherry Walker-Cowart Interim Executive Director of the PAB said:

“We have great systems in place that will continue to to work those systems that we’re investigating. We will continue to investigate, gather information, gather evidence, do our own independent and investigations. We’ll continue working with reviewing policies and procedures and making recommendations for changes as those occur will continue being a place where people can file reports or complaints and be available to the public.”

“This the citizens voted for something to hold for accountability, to hold those particular officers who who are engaged in misconduct, to hold them accountable and to be transparent about that. That mission does not change simply because of discipline.”

The Locust Club released a statement in part saying, “The decision is not a win for just police officers, it is about ensuring that every governmental procedure that is undertaken in this democratic state is conducted with fairness, equality and due process.”

See the full Locust Club statement below:

Here is a statement from City Council President Miguel A. Meléndez:

“First, the Rochester City Council sincerely thanks Andrew G. Celli, Jr., Esq. and the staff of Emery Celli Abady Brinckerhoff Ward & Maazel, LLP for their hard work and dedication to this case over the last several years. Today, the State of New York Court of Appeals issued a ruling, 4-3, upholding the previous decisions invalidating the Police Accountability Board’s disciplinary powers.”

“The Rochester City Council still believes that accountability of all public servants – including our police department – is of the utmost importance. This case was taken to the highest Court in the State, and this Council has now exhausted every effort to define the disciplinary powers of the Police Accountability Board. Now that we have been given the final determination, we must move forward with this very important work.”