BY CHRISTINE CARRIE FIEN
Proposed changes to the process for settling grievances against the Rochester Police Department do appear to give residents more power and to provide greater scrutiny and accountability, but for many, they still don’t go far enough. Residents at last night’s meeting to review the proposed changes said nothing short of a completely independent agency to review complaints would satisfy their concerns and restore their trust in the RPD.
Currently, residents must file complaints against police at one of two places: the RPD’s Professional Standards Section, or the Center for Dispute Settlement. The review is done by the PSS, and in certain cases, those reviews are vetted by CDS.
Under the proposed changes, there would be multiple places to file complaints, and complainants would get a community advocate to accompany and guide them through the process. Other proposals: complainants would be updated on their cases every 30 days, courtesy complaints — officers acting belligerently, for example — would be fast-tracked, and the general disposition of the cases would be shared with the people who lodged the complaints.
And though the final decision and any officer discipline would still be up to the police chief, the complainant would be able to appeal to City Council.
Many of the proposed changes require Council’s approval, but the RPD has agreed to implement some of the changes on its own, including hiring another sergeant at PSS to speed-up case resolutions, and to provide monthly progress reports on PSS’s work to Council members.
“It has not been an easy process, but I think it’s a good process,” said City Council member Adam McFadden, who co-chaired the committee that led the review into the complaint process. “That has been one of the most difficult challenges I’ve had. I believe we can do a lot of things better.”
But residents said that the review process still starts and ends with the City of Rochester and its police department, and that’s not good enough.
“The city is in control of everything,” one resident said, adding that if they’re in charge of the process, they’re also in charge of the outcome.
“You cannot have the police policing the police,” another resident said.