By Sherry Walker-Cowart, Interim Executive director of the Police Accountability Board
The Police Accountability Board of Rochester (PAB) has marked one year since opening for investigations in June of 2022. In that time, the PAB has been able to share many accomplishments with the community including the launch of two major Policy & Oversight investigations, the appointment of four new board members, and now the release of the PAB’s inaugural annual report.
When I arrived at the PAB in January of 2023, it was common knowledge that the agency experienced challenges.
However, despite uncertainty in the face of restricted budgeting and limited staff, there remained an unwavering commitment to our mission, to lead positive systemic change in Public Safety.
As I read the annual report, I am struck by what has been achieved. Specific highlights include:
The PAB Policy & Oversight Division launched two Oversight Investigations in 2023. Those investigations review Rochester Police Department policies regarding the use of pepper spray on youth, and how the department utilizes beanbag guns. In addition to those investigations, the Policy & Oversight team also completed its review of data-sharing practices within the RPD. Nineteen (19) recommendations for change were submitted to the department that the PAB believes could improve the public data available to the Rochester Community.
The community engagement team, along with staff at the agency have a renewed commitment to reaching the people of Rochester. You may have seen the PAB at events including the City’s Clean Sweep where they spent hours in the 19th Ward. The PAB also increased its presence at major events like Juneteenth and the City’s Roc the Block hiring expo with more to come in 2023.
Our team of investigators has been hard at work since the agency began taking reports in June of 2022. In addition to making it easier for people to provide the PAB with large data files, images, and videos using WeTransfer, the team has begun conducting full investigations, going door to door to look into allegations of alleged police misconduct, and collecting evidence from witnesses. As of July 2023, PAB investigators received download access to certain RPD files, making it possible to review evidence and documents, leading to comprehensive investigative reports.
However, it is not our accomplishment alone. We thank all who have contributed to our success. This includes former employees, past board members, and our community supporters.
I also continue to be inspired by our sitting board, PABA volunteers, and staff who have risen to the unprecedented challenges of this past year. They have demonstrated dedication to the community we serve and a determination to accomplish the task before them.
My time as Interim Executive Director will come to an end, however, as the board works to identify a permanent leader for the PAB, I remain focused on supporting the agency’s efforts and am committed to solidifying the PAB’s successful future. It has been my honor to serve in this role, building partnerships with key stakeholders while supporting the agency on this journey.