by LAURA SMITH
ROCHESTER NY--Rochester City Council has been hearing from community members this week regarding a draft police reform plan.
Community members overwhelmingly spoke out against the current draft of the plan during public forums on both Wednesday and Thursday.
Comments repeated by many of those speaking at the forums were that the draft report lacked specifics on how to hold police accountable and did not provide funding to reinvest money into alternative services.
The draft plan was developed by the Mayor’s administration in response to an Executive Order issued by Governor Cuomo. Among other things, the plan contains proposals to allow the immediate termination of officers with cause and to develop a new collective bargaining agreement with the Police Union. The plan also calls for a policy banning officers from handcuffing children aged 12 and under unless they present an imminent danger to themselves or others.
Conor Dwyer Reynolds, Executive Director of the Police Accountability Board, confirmed that the plan submitted to City Council did not contain many of the recommendations they had made.
"None of our proposals made the final plan without being dramatically changed," Dwyer Reynolds says. "All of our proposals had concrete deadlines for implementation. Many of them had very specific funding commitments to ensure that change would actually happen. All of those were stripped out."
Among the specific proposals the City rejected were investing $10 million in the Person In Crisis team and other alternative first responder programs, as well as a committing to firing officers involved in white supremacist groups.
"The City just did not want to get on board with any of those proposals," says Dwyer Reynolds.
In a working group meeting with City Council Monday, both the Mayor and Dorraine Kirkmire, the City Manager of Planning, acknowledged that they had received community feedback expressing disappointment at the lack of concrete deadlines around the proposals.
They stated that part of the reason is that at the time of completing the draft they had yet to receive the report from the Racial and Structural Equity Commission or the RPD policy review by law firm WilmerHale.
City officials stated that the draft plan sets an Autumn 2021 deadline for specifics to be developed by a workgroup led by the RPD Chief.
While the draft plan does have a number of proposals for change, 40 of the 66 pages are devoted to an explanation of the current systems and programs.
City Council President Loretta Scott questions that focus on the existing programs during Monday’s working group meeting.
"What we're proposing to do [in this plan] is stuff that we're essentially doing," Scott observed. "Which is not a bad thing. The only problem is, it's not getting us where we want to be now, how is it going to get us there in the future?"
The Mayor responded that the approach taken was to work within the current framework of the RPD to effect change before considering a complete restructuring of the department.
The council will have another working session on the proposal next Monday where they will discuss specific amendments proposed by City Councilors.
While it’s clear that several Council members have reservations about the lack of specifics in the plan, it is not clear at this point how substantial any changes will be, given that plan needs to be approved by April 1st to comply with the timeline set out in the Executive Order.
LAURA SMITH is a volunteer reporter for Reclaiming the Narrative. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.