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Rochester Voters Overwhelmingly Approve Police Accountability Board

Above Photo: At a September press conference, Police Accountability Board Alliance members said they’re optimistic about the results of the Locust Club’s suit. (From left: Phyllis Harmon, Ted Forsyth, Wanda Wilson, and Markeisha Jackson.)

Community Control of the police would be a transformational change. The democratic control of the police by communities, especially black and brown communities, which are subjected to widespread police abuse, is a systemic change that could transform the relationship between police and communities. Police would understand they would truly have to serve the communities where they work.

The most advanced work on community control of police is happening in Chicago where they have elected 19 aldermen to the City Council who support community control of the police. A grassroots group has gotten more the 60,000 people to sign petitions supporting it, and they have developed the most detailed model of community control of the police. 

An important conference, the Refounding of the National Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression, which will include this issue, will be held from Nov. 22-24 in Chicago. More than 300 have registered for this conference already and more are registering each day. At the Black is Back rally and conference this weekend in Washington, DC, community control of the police was emphasized. The phrase they used was Black Community Control of the Police. Community control of police is a necessary step to reining in abusive policing and police murders in black communities. 

Margaret Flowers and I interviewed the lead organizer in Chicago, Frank Chapman, in our most recent radio show. Chapman explains how they have organized to build support for the issue and puts the issue in a historical perspective going back to the Reconstruction Era when black communities in the south briefly had community control of the police. You can listen to the interview” Campaign for Community Control of Police Goes National. The first half of the show is Margaret and me talking about current issues, the second half-hour is the Chapman interview.   

The key to the Chicago bill is the election of the Civilian Police Accountability Council (CPAC). You can read the bill Creating the Civilian Police Accountability Council. This is an elected council, not appointed or even partially appointed. The heart of the Chicago bill creating CPAC is its broad powers. Here is the list from the bill:

ARTICLE II. POWERS AND DUTIES OF CPAC (2-83-040 et seq.) 2-83-040 Civilian Police Accountability Council –Powers and duties. 

The CPAC shall exercise the following powers: 

  1. Appoint a Superintendent of Police; 
  2. Adopt rules and regulations for the governance of the Department of Police of the city; 
  3. Serve as a board to hear disciplinary actions for which a suspension for more than the 30 days expressly reserved to the Superintendent is recommended, or for removal or discharge involving officers and employees of the Police Department in the classified civil service of the city; 
  4. Promulgate rules, regulations and procedures for the conduct of the CPAC’s investigations consistent with the requirements of collective bargaining agreements, due process of law and equal protection under the law; 
  5. In those instances where CPAC’s investigation indicates that a member of the Department of Police has committed a crime, petition the Chief Judge of the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois to convene a Grand Jury if one is not already convened, and present CPAC’s findings of criminal activity to the Grand Jury to get an indictment for Deprivation of Rights Under Color of Law pursuant to 18 U.S. Code § 242; 
  6. Review, approve and submit to the City of Chicago the annual budget of the Department of Police; 
  7. Provide required educational opportunities for CPAC members to become familiar with citizens’ United States and Illinois constitutional rights, learn law enforcement oversight techniques, and undergo victims’ assistance, sexual assault and domestic violence certification training; 
  8. Establish officers, committees and subcommittees for the effective conduct of CPAC business; 9. Protect the rights guaranteed to the citizens of Chicago by the United States and Illinois Constitutions; 
  9. Review and sign off on all complaint investigations; 
  10. Review and sign off on all new Department of Police policies and special orders; 
  11. Disallow the use of the Department of Police by outside law enforcement agencies to commit crimes; 
  12. Negotiate and approve contracts with the police unions. and 14. Remap the City of Chicago police districts as needed as determined by the CPAC.  


Rochester voters overwhelmingly approve Police Accountability Board

City of Rochester voters on Tuesday overwhelmingly approved the creation of Police Accountability Board, setting the stage for a legal challenge from the union representing city police.

Whether to create such a board was put to voters in the form of a referendum that, with about 50 percent of election districts reporting, passed by a vote of 76 to 23 percent.

The board would have the power to review accusations of officer misconduct and to require the police chief to punish officers when the allegations are sustained. Under current law, only the police chief has the power to discipline officers.

Under the law that created the board, the City Council, Mayor Lovely Warren, and the Police Accountability Board Alliance – a coalition of community organizations that championed the creation of the board – now have 90 days to get the board on its feet.

That means choosing nine members, and hiring an executive director and several full-time staff members to work on its behalf. Alliance members said they have already begun making its choices.

Once the board is chosen and the staff hired, members will have to learn police regulations so they can determine whether officers have violated them. They’ll also have to create a disciplinary matrix to figure out which punishments are applicable for which violations.

Alliance members say they want input from the public, the Rochester Police Department, and the Rochester Police Locust Club, which is the police union. But it’s unlikely that the Locust Club would participate, given that it is expected to challenge the viability of the board in court.

The union already filed one lawsuit to keep the referendum off the ballot and to get the law that created the board struck down. The union wasn’t successful, but Michael Mazzeo, president of the Rochester Locust Club has made it clear that more litigation is coming.

Mazzeo has said repeatedly that the board violates collective bargaining agreements, due process rights as well as state and federal laws.

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