Rochester, NY City Council President Loretta Scott talks about Local Investigations, Subpoenas, and Disciplining Police Officers


Southwest Tribune: Let us get straight to it. What are these subpoenas about?

Council President Scott: These are what are called institutional subpoenas. And they are demanding records and files from city council, the mayor’s office, the law department, the police, and the Information Technology (IT) department.

They may be people who are called in to give depositions at another stage of this but the first stage is to gather the information that they are going to review and analyze in terms of what it shows and what additional information needs to be obtained. And the additional information may need to come from dispositions where-in people would actually sit and answer questions.

Southwest Tribune: What happens if someone is found to have broken the law?

Council President Scott: Depending on the nature of it. The criminal investigation is already ongoing, so under normal circumstances we will refer it to the attorney general, the district attorney or someone like that. So, for us we will be looking at where our systems and policies broke down, so that we will be able to institute new policies for those things that are in our control to bridge the gaps that may be evident as a result of the information we see.

Southwest Tribune: Have the subpoenas already started going out?

Council President Scott: Yes, they went out yesterday.

Southwest Tribune: Could you give us an update about the Police Accountability Board (PAB)?

Council President Scott: There were two resignations and we have filled one. We will be in the process of interviewing for the remaining vacant seat. We will probably start that next week. We should have it filled by October. We have timelines in the legislation, which we are supposed to fill the vacancies. We may be a little behind because there has been so much upheaval in the last few weeks. Furthermore, once the lawsuit is completed.

Hopefully soon, they will be able to hear cases and determine discipline as a result of reviewing the cases and determine what policies have been broken. In the absence of the ability to discipline they will still be looking at the policies and procedures to determine areas where they should be strengthening. A lot of that work is starting to go on now. And we got to coordinate with each other because the Racial and Structural Equity Commission (RASE) has a committee that is doing that kind of work. And there is going to be another body that is also looking at policies and procedures. Because of what has happened, there is so much attention and energy around police practices, customs and procedures that there is a lot more work that will happen, then what was going on before.

The PAB who is charged to do that are at a disadvantage because they are not staffed up yet. They have not gotten their executive director. That should be coming very soon. And once the executive director is hired, the other staff members will also be on board. I think the members are willing to do a lot of the review and research, but it really does require a level of staff support that we do not have right now. We are able to support the effort to the extent to do the start-up activities but beyond that is why we built a budget for it, so they could have the resources that they need to get their very important work done.

Southwest Tribune: Will the Court send down their ruling on the PAB’s power to discipline officers soon?

Council President Scott: We filed a motion for the judge to accelerate his ruling on the matter but that was denied, so we may not know until December. Southwest Tribune: What is one critical takeaway, so we will not have another person lose their life, such as the senseless way Daniel Prude loss his life?

Council President Scott: We have authorized funding where we will have people who specialize in mental health issues to be on scenes with officers, when calls come in of this nature.

Southwest Tribune: Is there any timeline given by the attorney general regarding the announcement of the grand jury ruling to indict or clear the officers associated with Prude’s death?

Council President Scott: She said she is moving along as quickly as she could.

Southwest Tribune: Why is it taking so long? She had the case since March. Do you feel comfortable with how long it is taking?

Council President Scott: As she indicated when she was here that sometimes it takes months or years to bring charges within the state judicial system. She said it is a lot of information that they consume, and review and they do not skip any steps and I guess they have a full docket. However, we asked her if she could move it quickly? It was one of things we asked when we wrote to her. We asked her to come to Rochester to advise us of the status and process she did that. And to inform the community, she did that. And to move this as quickly as possible, she did that. Because, within a week or two after we sent our letter, she impaneled a grand jury.

Southwest Tribune: How long have you been in public service and why do you love serving the people of Rochester?

Council President Scott: I have been in public service for more than fifty years at some level. I believe it is an opportunity to have an impact to contribute to the betterment of our community, which is extremely important to me. And I am a firm believer that too much is given, much is required. So, I feel blessed to be able to do this work.

Article by: Author and Journalist Rodney Brown, executive director of Brown Publishing LLC and Southwest Tribune Newspaper
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