LONSBERRY: RPD Is Under Attack

 There’s a gathering storm above the Rochester Police Department.

 In a convergence of circumstances that don’t seem to be coincidental, the RPD finds itself in the sights of anti-cop politicians and activists just as it is leaderless and without a voice that can be raised in its defense.

 And all of that is happening in the context of an investigation of two officers which will probably result in the release of police body-camera video showing at least one of those officers illegally beating and mocking a black male city resident.

 It is a perfect storm that could negatively impact the department, its officers and Rochester public safety for years into the future, and nobody is acknowledging it publicly.

 The crux is the Police Accountability Board.

 That is a proposal from progressive anti-cop activists that would take department-discipline authority away from the chief and instill it in a panel of “community leaders.” The activists want that panel to have subpoena power and the authority to discipline or fire individual officers.

 This week, City Council President Loretta Scott released a proposal which she calls a starting point for discussion. It would create a nine-person Police Accountability Board with members nominated by City Council, activists and the mayor. It would have a $300,000-a-year budget and its executive director could only be someone who had never worked in law enforcement.

 Basically, this creates jobs for and legally empowers people who hold press conferences assailing the police with stuff that is most of the time nothing but bull crap. It also takes discipline of the police out of the hands of department officials and puts it in the hands of people who, to be honest, hate the department and its officers.

 It is an empowerment of the most extreme of the progressive movement’s anti-law, anti-authority, anti-police contingent. It’s a strategic offensive in the war on police.

 But there’s nobody to say that, and no one institutionally to speak for the department, its officers and their long-term interests.

 And why not?

 Because the last chief ended up walking out the door the very week the Police Accountability Board was formally presented. That was one week after he dropped the bomb – after an almost four-month delay – that two officers were facing credible accusations that they beat an innocent man.

 So, a big controversy erupts – with incendiary video to follow – and the City Council moves forward with a system that significantly changes the disciplining of police, and the chief takes a powder. Right when the department needs a capable and strong face and voice, someone who can deal with controversy and argue for the department’s interests, he quits.

 That’s not particularly noble.

 The interim chief, a 38-year-old with 16 years in law enforcement, is well regarded and probably has the potential to become a good chief, but is hamstrung by his situation. As an interim chief he doesn’t have the authority or clout to make policy decisions, and as an interim chief who very much wants the job permanently, he can’t afford to disagree with the mayor or anyone on City Council.

 And what about the deputy mayor, a former police chief and nationally recognized law-enforcement expert?

 He’s on the bench.

 He can provide input if asked, but he is involved with neither Loretta Scott’s PAB effort nor the mayor’s plans for the police department.

 Which makes you think the long knives are out for the police department.

 A controversy likely to stoke anti-cop sentiment via the evening news was thrown down just as the process begins, the last chief was shown the door, the aspirational chief knows the length of his leash, and the on-staff expert is not at the table.

 It is a coordinated attack.

 And a foregone conclusion.

 The anti-cop activists are going to win.

 And the cops are going to lose.

 And that means the people are going to lose.

 Because the Rochester Police Department is the cork in the bottle of chaos, the lock on Pandora’s box. And everything that weakens it strengthens the forces of evil – forces of evil which endanger the good people of Rochester.

 That’s what’s going on, and that’s what’s at stake. And nobody’s saying anything about it.

 And the irony is that none of it is necessary. There already is a Police Accountability Board, it’s called City Council. There already is civilian oversight of police discipline, it’s called the mayor.

 The people already have a system to regulate the police department. They elect public officials to do that.

 But those public officials don’t.

 And we are left with messes like this.


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