Feedback 7/5 

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'Policing' the police

Frank Liberti and Cheryl Hayward of the Center for Dispute Settlement "Police-review Leaders Want Change") profess that the Civilian Review Board "needs major improvements." Barbara Lacker-Ware and I, in conjunction with Enough Is Enough and the Rochester Coalition for Police Reform, released a report in February that details how the CRB has failed the people of Rochester. The Center for Dispute Settlement seems to be a bit late to the party if they are just now noticing that the CRB "need major improvements."

The failures of the current CRB are many: It is administered by a private nonprofit that requires, among other hurdles, potential board members to be trained in and practice mediation; the CRB has no independent investigative power (the police conduct the only investigations into complaints of misconduct); the CRB has no subpoena power (meaning that the CRB has no legal recourse to command the production of evidence or compel testimony); and finally, the chief of police makes the final determination for all complaints and imposes any discipline he sees fit. These have been the failures of the civilian review process under the Center for Dispute Settlement for 25 years.

Barbara and I looked at 15 years of data, specifically 1,173 allegations of police use of force against civilians, where only 2 percent of allegations (23 total) were sustained (meaning it was determined that the officer acted wrongly). Only 14 of those 23 sustained allegations led to discipline; the harshest discipline imposed was six suspensions. Based on our research, we conclude that police have routinely used unnecessary force against unarmed civilians, and the current CRB has done nothing to curtail this misconduct for decades.

At the end of our report is an ordinance calling for the Police Accountability Board to be created. The PAB would be an 11-member board with subpoena power and have independent investigative authority directly overseen by City Council. It would also have the power to compel the chief to impose discipline, using a disciplinary matrix, if complaints were sustained. In short, the PAB would be a review board with teeth.

Liberti and Hayward's proposed changes to a system that "needs major improvements" feel tepid. I encourage the public to read the full report ( and come to your own conclusions.

"It's toothless," community activist Howard Eagle said 18 years ago at a rally denouncing the CRB. "It more or less rubber-stamps the decisions of the police chief." Eighteen years later, his words continue to ring true.


Job fairs were helpful, not bad

Mayor Warren's decision to hold Uber and Lyft job fairs at City Hall were in the best interest of the community and are commendable.

Rachel Barnhart's filing of an ethics complaint against Warren for taking these constructive actions reeks of nasty election year political maneuvering. It was a clumsy and transparent move.

Barnhart should've supported and applauded Warren's positive efforts. Instead, she squandered her chance to show constructive imagination. For example, by recommending an amendment to the City Charter, Section 2-18 (c) (5) to allow for, at the mayor's request, events and activities on City property that are deemed by the City Council to serve the best interests of the community.

Barnhart needs to learn that authenticity is the thread from which the mantle of leadership is woven.


Art in the eye of one beholder

On a local artist's anti-Trump street art: While Trump is undoubtedly a despicable individual, this "art" is way over the top. And even as a liberal, I have to agree with those who argue that had this been done with an image of Obama, accusations of racism would be flying fast and thick.


Brighton's focus on waste

On the Brighton school district's new waste-reduction policy: Always good news! Is Brighton still using disposable cafeteria trays and plastic "disposable" utensils? Even if they are compostable or recyclable, the waste is insane.

I was horrified when I went to my child's school to see the amount of trash that is created by disposable cafeteria products. "Waste" needs to be reduced. Deeming items tossed out as "compostable" or "recyclable" does not absolve it from being generated in the first place.


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