‘Our community must be heard’: PAB offers recommendations for future of policing reform plan
The Rochester Police Accountability Board called for “drastically expand staffing” for calls involving mental health distress and offered a litany of other suggestions in an 89-page plan released Wednesday to help continue conversations revolving around the future of policing.
The PAB’s findings addressed the level of police staffing, RPD’s practices, which the PAB labeled as “controversial or harmful,” and the department’s internal culture.
It also outlined a number of tactical changes it would like to see implemented, including a ban on the use of tear gas and a ban on chokeholds and headlocks.
The PAB offered the document as a response to questions on policing reform posed by a working group organized by Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren. The group is responsible for formulating recommendations in response to Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s executive order issued in June mandating each municipality in the state deliver a plan for reform by April 1, 2021. Failure to comply could result in a loss of state funding.
The PAB document will undoubtedly be the most progressive one delivered to the city’s working group. It features testimony from community members and also echoes many of demands outlined by Black Lives Matter protesters throughout 2020.
The city welcomed the PAB’s feedback.
“This is another important step in our efforts to respond to Governor Cuomo’s executive order regarding the reimagining of policing,” city spokesman Justin Roj said in a statement. “The city is committed to an open and collaborative process that ultimately makes our neighborhoods and residents safer.”
The PAB is one of four organizations in the working group and the first to publicly offer suggestions. The Rochester Police Department, the Racial and Structural Equity Commission and United Christian Leadership Ministry are the others. They are expected to provide their suggestions in the coming weeks.
The city’s working group includes members of these organizations and City Councilors. After receiving community input, the group will present a plan to City Council, which will then vote on the proposal.
“Our community must be heard”
The PAB plan is still open for feedback and revision, board chair Shani Wilson said.
“In every discussion about policing, our community must be heard,” Wilson said. “The board’s job is to make sure community voices are listened to in this process. After weeks of conducting policy research, examining our city’s history, and collecting community testimonials on big picture questions about policing, the board has drafted a preliminary set of answers to the working group’s questions.”
The findings conclude, “Rochesterians from many backgrounds appear to want a thorough reimagining of public safety, rather than piecemeal reform.”
Among other PAB’s recommendations was a call to “drastically expand staffing for and use of first responder systems that substitute police officers with social workers and mental health providers.”
The PAB recommended the creation of a public database for RPD arrest records and other procedural changes.Your stories live here.Fuel your hometown passion and plug into the stories that define it.Create Account
Since the death of Daniel Prude became public in early September, the city has already enacted some reforms. The Family Crisis Intervention Team (FACIT), which consists of 10 social workers who respond to mental health and domestic violence calls, has moved from RPD to the city’s Department of Recreation and Human Services. It is part of the newly-formed Office of Crisis Intervention Services.
The renamed Crisis Intervention Services program includes the Family and Crisis Intervention Team, Victim Assistance Unit, Homicide Response Team, and Crisis Response Team.