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June 17, 2021

Local law authorizing a "Police Accountability Board" to conduct police officer disciplinary hearings held invalid

A CPLR Article 78 proceeding initiated by the Rochesterpolice union, its president, and an individual Rochesterpolice officer [Plaintiffs] challenged the City of Rochester's Police Accountability Board's [PAB] authority to conduct disciplinary hearings and discipline officers of the City of Rochester Police Department." Supreme Court, among other things, declared parts of Local Law No. 2, which authorize and empower the PAB to conduct such hearing and discipline Rochester police officers, "void and unenforceable."

Supreme Court had agreed with the Plaintiffs and held the City's Local Law No. 2 violated the Taylor Law, Civil Service Law §75, and Unconsolidated Laws §891. The court also, sua sponte, "referred [Local Law No. 2] back to the Rochester City Council "to be reconciled and made compliant with New York State law and the Rochester City Charter."* The City Council appealed the Supreme Court's ruling.

The Appellate Division, noting that "the Rochester City Charter has been amended to grant virtually all authority for disciplining police officers to a new entity called the 'Police Accountability Board' [PAB]," opined that although "the politics swirling around this provision are weighty and fraught ... its legality is not" and held that Supreme Court "properly invalidated Local Law No. 2 insofar as it imbues PAB with disciplinary authority over Rochesterpolice officers without regard to collective bargaining."

The Appellate Division's decision explores the events leading to the establishment of the PAB, relevant law and court decisions, including two procedural issues, and the merits of the Plaintiffs' challenges to Local Law No. 2. 

* The Appellate Division held that Supreme Court "erred by referring Local Law No. 2 "back to the Rochester City Council to be reconciled and made compliant with New York State law and the Rochester City Charter."

The text of the Appellate Division's decision is posted on the Internet at http://www.nycourts.gov/reporter/3dseries/2021/2021_03787.htm.

 

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