This article in Ravishly by Ijeoma Oluo caught my eye, because really, just feeling bad about racist policing is not doing anything about it.  Even writing distressed-sounding social media posts about it isn’t quite up to the bar.  So what, what can we do?  I read the article and…


Step 1: Educate yourself on your city’s police conduct review process.  OK!  That’s something I can do now!  It wasn’t even that hard to find for the Rochester Police Department (RPD).  Luckily there was a Wikipedia page with a link to a page that had a link to the process as published.  Sounds convoluted but not compared to what some cities have… or don’t have… online.

Reading the process online, I was looking for the gaps that Oluo said I might find, and I am not sure if I found one.  A bit of an inconsistency perhaps?  It certainly could be completely innocent.  Here is the passage I tripped on:

THE REVIEW

  • The Police Chief reviews every complaint after the investigation is completed and a report is written. 
  • If your complaint includes excessive force or charges an officer with a crime, it will also be reviewed by a Civilian Review Board (CRB). The Board includes three citizens who are not members of the Police Department.
  • The CRB will review your complaint, statements from all witnesses and reports from the investigation. The CRB may ask for additional information before making its recommendations to the Police Chief. The CRB may also choose to interview witnesses.
  • The results of investigations where there are no charges that the police officer used excessive force or committed a crime are also reviewed by the Police Chief.
  • The Police Chief reviews investigations and makes the final decision on all complaints.
I felt that the fourth bullet implied some other path if an officer was charged with excessive force or any crime, while the fifth bullet dispelled that idea with the one that the Chief has the final say on everything.
I have emailed the RPD for clarification, I will share what response they make and then my progress to Step 2 (if necessary).

UPDATE:

On the Memorial Day holiday, no less, I got this response from Lieutenant Mark Simmons, the RPD Commanding Officer of the Professional Standards Section:


Thank you for taking the time to reach out to the Professional Standards Section regarding your inquiry about the complaint review process. In sum and substance, the Chief of Police reviews every complaint after the investigation is completed and a report is written, as indicated in the first bullet point (The Police Chief reviews every complaint after the investigation is completed and a report is written).
The last bullet point further explains that the Chief of Police makes the final decision on the investigative findings for all complaints (The Police Chief reviews investigations and makes the final decision on all complaints).
The second to last bullet point was placed there to further solidify the point that despite the complaint’s eligibility to be reviewed by CRB, the Chief of Police will still review the case (The results of investigations where there are no charges that the police officer used excessive force or committed a crime are also reviewed by the Police Chief). Although I agree that this line may be perceived as redundant in nature, it was placed there to ensure citizens understood that their complaints will always be reviewed by this department’s highest ranking member.
I apologize if the line was confusing to interpret and am grateful to you for seeking clarity. If there is any further assistance that I can provide you in the future, please do not hesitate to contact me.

So the CRB can add investigative horsepower to a given case, but it seems that their result is purely advisory — ultimately a finding will be the decision of the Chief.