Rochester police reform plan approved

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City Council has approved the city of Rochester’s police reform plan to comply with Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s executive order—it did not have much of a choice.

As Council president Loretta Scott noted: “Not approving the plan is not an option because we don’t want to make our city ineligible for receiving funding for police services.”

Council met yesterday to vote and comply with the governor’s deadline to submit plans for review by April 1. The plan was approved in a 5-3 vote, with Councilmembers Malik Evans, Mary Lupien and Mitch Gruber voting against it, given last-minute changes.

“Council had reached an agreement where this would have passed almost unanimously,” Evans said. “Council worked hours incorporating all the feedback. There were then 11th-hour changes that were never discussed with Council by the administration. I found it unacceptable, based upon the tight timeframe. I believe we have to be as transparent as possible.”

On June 12, 2020, in the wake of George Floyd’s death in Minneapolis, Cuomo signed Executive Order 203, requiring local governments in the state to adopt a policing reform plan. The goal: to build mutual trust and respect between the police and the communities they serve.

Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren convened a working group of city staff, Council members, the Commission on Racial and Structural Equity and the Police Accountability Board.

Council spent several hours poring over the Rochester plan, which includes advocating for more resources for mental health and conflict resolution programs, and creating strict disciplinary rules banning discriminatory enforcement patterns.

However, at the last minute, there were changes, which Council agreed were not substantive. More time would have been helpful, said Willie Lightfoot, Council vice president. He called the late amendments “somewhat disrespectful.”

“I’m not totally proud of this thing,” he said. “I know we can do better. But I want to remind citizens that this is not the end all to police reform in Rochester. This is to meet the governor’s executive order.”

Council member Miguel Melendez acknowledged that this is a starting point, and Gruber reminded that the 2022 city budget would provide an opportunity to “get things right,” and go beyond the targets outlined in the plan.

Smriti Jacob is Rochester Beacon managing editor.

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