Flying Squirrel Community Space

A Police Accountability System with teeth for March Monday Mayhem!

For March Monday Mayhem, the Flying Squirrel Community Space has invited authors Barbara Lacker-Ware and Theodore Forsyth to discuss their recently released report on the failures of the Civilian Review Board in Rochester and their solution, the Police Accountability Board.

March Monday Mayhem: A Police Accountability System with teeth!
Monday, March 6, 2017
7:00PM - 9:00PM
Flying Squirrel Community Space
285 Clarissa St.
Rochester, NY
Facebook Event:

The discussion is free and open to the public.

The authors are bringing bound copies of the report with them to distribute for a donation of $5.

Check out Gary Craig's first article about the report: Critics seek overhaul of police conduct review (

About “The Case for an Independent Police Accountability System: Transforming the Civilian Review Process in Rochester, New York”

In response to decades of concern about Rochester Police Department (RPD) accountability and racial profiling, The Case for an Independent Police Accountability System: Transforming the Civilian Review Process in Rochester, New York has just been published. The document reflects two years of research and in-depth investigation in which authors Barbara Lacker-Ware and Theodore Forsyth have formalized earlier work by the Coalition for Police Reform—under the leadership of Reverend Lewis Stewart and Kaelyn Rich—and Enough is Enough, Rochester.

The document presents data-driven findings on the RPD oversight process, officer discipline, and Civilian Review Board (CRB) management. It examines the process of investigating unnecessary use of force, subsequent review of related civilian complaints, and the lack of public transparency and accountability. After reviewing the report, University of Nebraska Professor Emeritus Dr. Samuel Walker from the School of Criminology and Criminal Justice wrote, “It is probably the best such proposal from a community group that I have seen. Your report has clearly documented the problems with the existing system of oversight in Rochester. It is a truly impressive report.”

Among its many examples, the report cites the following facts:

From 2002-2015, only 2% of civilian complaints of unnecessary force have been sustained by the Chief of Police and only 5% by the Civilian Review Board. (In contrast, Syracuse’s Citizen Review Board’s sustain rate was 23% in 2015.)

From 2008-2013, the RPD Professional Standards Section did not sustain ANY civilian complaints for unnecessary use of force.

During the 14 years reviewed in the data, the harshest penalties meted out to police officers for sustained complaints of excessive use of force were six suspensions.

The document’s second half proposes an ordinance—through legislation enacted by the Rochester City Council—that would abolish the current Civilian Review Board, replacing it with a Police Accountability Board with the capacity to conduct its own investigations into civilian complaints, subpoena testimony and evidence, and discipline RPD officers who have committed the misconduct with which they are charged by civilian complainants. Included throughout the publication are more than a dozen documented cases exemplifying the use of excessive force by RPD officers.

Lacker-Ware and Forsyth make the case that the City of Rochester’s civilian review process embodied in the CRB does not adequately address the instances of police misconduct by RPD officers. Currently, civilian complaints are filed with the Professional Standards Section (PSS)—the RPD’s own internal affairs office—which investigates them. These investigations and their findings then are submitted to the CRB and the Chief of Police, who each make their own findings. The CRB has no power to independently investigate complaints, compel testimony or evidence, or discipline officers. The Chief of Police makes the final determination as to whether the complaint against the officer is sustained, and if so, what, if any discipline is administered.

The authors researched annual reports of the CRB (2001-2015) and the PSS (2002-2015), as well as the history and current workings of Rochester’s civilian review processes. They compared the CRB, PSS, and Chief of Police findings and recommendations. They examined how the CRB was established, its make-up and funding, and reviewed disciplinary consequences imposed by the RPD in instances of officer misconduct. They also studied and compared civilian review processes in other cities. Results showed that the CRB has no power to investigate complaints. Instead, the police, through PSS, conduct all complaint investigations, with CRB findings often mirroring PSS findings. There is no appeal process.

About Monday Mayhem:
On the first Monday of every month, the Flying Squirrel hosts special programming that forgoes the technical and logistical concerns of running an open-use community space in order to take a closer look at the impact of our actions on the community and our potential as a catalyst for change.