A Letter from the Police Accountability Board to the Rochester Community
In the past few weeks, there have been numerous reports, rumors, and expressions of deep concern about the Rochester Police Accountability Board from many members of our community. We understand and we promise you we take it very seriously.
First and foremost, we want to assure you that the PAB remains a strong and vital institution. The Board members have continued their role in setting policy and we have a talented, dedicated staff who are continuing the work needed to open our doors. Those of you who watched our meeting last Thursday heard a summary of each division’s progress in meeting that goal. In the meantime, the Board is in the process of appointing an interim leader. This leader will oversee the agency’s administration during the time it takes for independent attorneys to complete their investigations.
Next, we want to be clear that we maintain our fundamental commitment to transparency. This means that we will share any and all information concerning the business of the Board when possible. There are, however, some exceptions to this and one is when we discuss personnel matters.We are committed to protecting the privacy of our staff, just as we are determined to preserve the confidentiality of members of the public who come forward with complaints about police misconduct. For that reason, many of our recent meetings needed to be held in Executive Session. Unfortunately, some interpreted this as acting in secret or withholding information from the public. We regret any misunderstanding about this and will do our best to be clear about the reasons whenever we do need to meet in Executive Session.
Another concern we have heard is that the City Council is trying to take over the PAB. We share your concern. From the beginning, the Board has disagreed with members of Council about the independence of our agency. Despite what we believed was an increasingly collaborative relationship with Council, the recent “3 Point Plan” for the PAB was created, discussed, and voted on without any prior notice or cooperation with the PAB itself. We specifically disagree with the Council’s attempt to implement a total hiring freeze for the agency. We are also concerned that they have not taken into account the authority given to the Board by the City Charter to oversee the agency and its Executive Director. Going forward, we hope that by appointing our Council liaison, Kim Smith, to chair the Council’s Special Committee, and include PAB members on it, the Council will demonstrate its commitment to a more collaborative process.
As you may have heard from yesterday’s budget hearing, we have a commitment from Council members to reach out to the Police Chief to ensure that he meets with PAB staff as they have requested and as is mandated by the City Charter. We look forward to hearing the positive results of those conversations today.
In the coming days, we will be sharing more with the public about the ongoing work of the PAB, including:
- presenting our current progress and continuing work at the City Council Budget Hearings;
- sharing our interim process for taking complaints and reports of misconduct;
- announcing the launch of a full-scale community outreach plan to increase awareness of PAB’s interim complaints intake process;
- and working with City officials and community members to receive, evaluate, and provide input on RPD’s updated and full protest policy.
The Police Accountability Board is deeply aware that our work can only be done in partnership with the Rochester community. We are grateful for your continuing support and patience as we prepare to open our doors and work together to change our city for the better.
Shani Wilson, Chair
Danielle Tucker, Vice Chair
Dr. Robert Harrison III
Rev. Rickey Harvey
Rev. Matthew Nickoloff
Rabbi Drorah Setel