The Albany Community Police Review Board is urging the state Court of Appeals to overturn a lower court ruling that sharply limited the authority of the Rochester Police Accountability Board.
In an amicus brief authored by attorneys in the Appellate Practice Group of Harris Beach PLLC, the Albany civilian review board argues that the Appellate Division’s Fourth Department was wrong in finding that the City of Rochester must collectively bargain with its police union before imposing discipline on officers accused of misconduct.
The Court of Appeals is scheduled to hear arguments in Rochester Police Locust Club in October. The case stems from the City of Rochester’s 2020 referendum that created the Police Accountability Board, consisting of civilians, to review and adjudicate complaints against city police personnel and issue discipline.
The Locust Club union has challenged the creation of the board as a violation of state Civil Service law and its labor contract. The Fourth Department, in a ruling now on appeal, held that the City of Rochester lacks the authority to establish the board. The Fourth Department found that Rochester is instead required to submit the subject of police discipline to collective bargaining with police labor unions and accept whatever processes result from those negotiations.
In the amicus brief filed by Harris Beach, the Albany Community Police Review Board highlights the state’s long history and tradition of entrusting police discipline to persons who represent the community and can be expected to bring the community’s conscience to bear, as well as the negative consequences often generated by the arbitration-heavy disciplinary processes that often result from collective bargaining.
The brief explains that the Albany board, created by City of Albany law in 2000, consists of civilians who review the Albany Police Department’s handling of misconduct complaints and conduct independent investigations. As appropriate, the board can recommend discipline to the city’s police chief, who either must accept the recommendation or explain any deviation.
“The (Albany) Review Board is a living manifestation of the state policy favoring local control over police discipline,” according to the Harris Beach brief.
As a friend of the court, the Review Board is seeking “to ensure the policy receives its proper due, and that Rochester, Albany and other municipalities are always entitled to establish police disciplinary mechanisms that bring the conscience of the community to bear.”
The brief was authored by partners Svetlana Ivy and Brian Ginsberg, with the support of Law Clerks Deanna DiBenedetto and Michael Giacomo. The Harris Beach team was assisted on the brief by the Albany Government Law Center.