GUEST APPEARANCE: Former PRB members urge Geneva City Council to appeal | Opinion

The following is a statement released by members of the City of Geneva Police Review Board that Supreme Court Justice Craig declared invalid:

“Last year, on June 1, 2021, the police union which represents the majority of officers of the Geneva Police Service (GPD) sued the City of Geneva for its recent vote of local law 1-2021. This Act created the Police Review Board (PRB), an all-civilian board to review complaints from members of the public alleging that they had experienced, witnessed or were aware of misconduct by an officer. of the GPD. According to local law, upon completion of its review of a complaint, the PRB would provide its recommendation for disposition of the complaint to the Chief of Police. The Chief retained full authority to determine the appropriate outcome of the complaint. According to local law: “The authority of the PRB is at all times limited to an advisory role. And further: “In matters of police discipline, the Chief retains full authority to determine discipline subject to the City Charter, New York State Civil Service Law, and Bargaining Agreements between the city and the agents.”

“On the morning of April 11, Judge Doran, who was presiding over the police union’s case against the city, issued his decision invalidating Local Law 1-2021 and therefore by extension nullifying the Police Review Board.

“At this time, Geneva City Council officials are reviewing their options with their pro bono legal representation from Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher and will determine how to proceed. They have several options, including appealing the judge’s decision and requesting a stay of decision, which would prevent the judge’s decision from taking effect while the case is being appealed. Community members who have made up the Police Review Board over the past several months strongly urge our City Council to take both of these actions.

“Furthermore, we urge even City Council members who did not vote for the creation of the PRB to support an appeal. Whatever our differences of opinion, this city has a vital interest in defending the integrity of the laws passed by the people’s elected representatives. Local Law 1-2021 deserves a full review by the New York State court system, rather than a single court ruling erasing the hard work that so many in this city have contributed. This includes the hard work done by people who ultimately did not support Local Law 1-2021, but nonetheless made important contributions to the debate surrounding its creation and the language that was ultimately included in the local law. We urge the city council to defend its legislative authority and appeal the decision.

“PRB’s work would be important to the future of Geneva as it would bring greater transparency and accountability to the operation of the police in our city and thus foster a greater spirit of trust between the community and the police service. police. The PRB complaints procedure is one that members of our community have requested and want to use. As board members, we have spoken to many people in our community who have complaints they planned to submit when the PRB process was finalized. These complaints are neither hypothetical nor hearsay; they are real, and they deserve to be heard. Knowing that these complaints exist, our council has been driven to work tirelessly over the past nine and a half months by the desire to create a process that community members and police can trust to responsibly investigate complaints. and produce fair recommendations that would be worthy of the chief of police’s consideration when reviewing a case and determining discipline.

“In our efforts to create such a process, we have undergone numerous trainings to learn more about the rules and operating procedures of the Geneva Police Department, to know how to best conduct investigations in a responsible and successful manner, and to learn more about the spectrum of diversity in our community so that our procedures and interactions with complainants and witnesses are respectful and positive. We researched best practices from other similar bodies and modeled the materials we created on what we learned and what we felt was best suited to our particular community here in Geneva. We paid particular attention to making the documents accessible to members of the general public and to ensuring that the whole process would be as transparent as possible. Through it all, we worked in conjunction with DPG Leader Michael Passalacqua, with the City Attorney, and with Erica Collins, our representative from the City Manager’s Office. We also actively encouraged community input, both generally at our monthly meetings and through community listening sessions. We worked on a budget for the future and designed our procedures to limit the cost of operation for the city. Currently, this budget would include payment for a post office box and printing. To date, by our calculations, the city has only incurred an expense of $120 for a training session with a former police officer and some minor printing costs for meeting materials. All other training was provided free of charge to PRB or was designed and delivered by PRB members themselves for fellow board members.

“All of this work over the past few months shows that members of the public can be trusted to take the responsibility of a council like this seriously. It shows that members of the public are willing to volunteer countless hours and that the project is not too big for a volunteer board. This demonstrates that council members are trusted by the community and the police service and that the council can design its procedures and operate in a way that encourages participation from people on both sides of its procedures. And this shows that the creation of such a council will not cost the city huge sums of money. This advice has shown that, in reality, law enforcement is not fireworks and scandal but the quiet and determined operation of accountability.

“After all this work, we, the members who made up the council, are understandably discouraged by Justice Doran’s decision, but more than that, we are disappointed that the tensions between the community and the police service remain unresolved and unresolved. because of this decision. . We are confident that the government of the people of Geneva will prevail on appeal and we therefore urge the city council to challenge this legal opinion. We remain hopeful that we can resume the work of making policing in this city more transparent. »