[HISTORY: Adopted by the Council of the City of Schenectady 6-10-2002 by Ord. No. 2002-9. Amendments noted where applicable.]
Editor's Note: This ordinance was vetoed by the Mayor 6-20-2002, and reconsidered and readopted by the Council 6-24-2002.
There is hereby established in the City of Schenectady the Schenectady Civilian Police Review Board.
It is the finding of the City Council of the City of Schenectady that the existing Police Objective Review Committee and the Police Community Advisory Board should be abolished, unless otherwise temporarily extended by the City Council, and their functions combined with new procedures and functions in a new body, to be known as the "Schenectady Civilian Police Review Board." Further, the citizens of the community will be best served with civilian oversight of internal police complaint procedures and investigations, and in addition to have a permanent body whose mission shall include the bettering of relations between civilians and police. Nothing in this enactment is intended to impair any rights of any party or participant, including those granted under federal and state laws, rules, and enactments.
The City Council hereby finds and declares that abuse of authority, prejudice, or discrimination based upon race, gender, color, national origin, economic status, religion, age, sexual preference, marital or domestic partner status, mental or physical ability has no place in the actions, customs, practices, policies, or procedures of the Police Department of the City of Schenectady.
The City Council further finds and declares that the conduct of law enforcement officials is subject to public, departmental, and executive scrutiny and accountability.
The purpose of this chapter is to create an independent review body with respect to complaints of misconduct by officers of the Schenectady Police Department. The remedies created by this chapter are in addition to any others provided by common law or statute. Its goals are to improve communication between the Police Department and the community, to increase police accountability and credibility with the public, and to create a complaint review process that is free from bias and informed of actual police practices.
[Amended 12-30-2002 by Ord. No. 2002-16; 10-11-2005 by Ord. No. 2005-13; 1-8-2007 by Ord. No. 2007-1; 2-11-2013 by Ord. No. 2013-02]
The Board shall consist of nine members, appointed by the Mayor and confirmed by the City Council, whose terms shall be for two years. Upon initial appointment there shall be six members serving two-year terms and five members serving one-year terms; every person thereafter shall be appointed to a two-year term. Appointments to the Board should be made with regard to composing a body of members who are involved in community activities and represent diverse constituencies. Appointments shall be made from recommendations made by the following organizations, all of whom may submit, within 90 days of a written request, one or more names to the Mayor for that purpose: NAACP; Human Rights Commission; SUN; Chamber of Commerce; SICM; League of Women Voters; Schenectady Municipal Housing Authority; and the City Council. In addition, one member of the general public, representing no particular group or organization, shall be appointed upon recommendation of the citizenry and the Mayor. Organizations may recommend an additional candidate each as a standby. The Mayor may select candidates from this pool of candidates to fill specific vacancies that may arise for specific organizations.
The Board shall include two ex-officio, nonvoting members, the Schenectady Public Safety Commissioner and a citizen-at-large appointed by the City Council. Members of the Schenectady Police Department Office of Professional Standards, the Corporation Counsel's office and others with knowledge of specific cases or related issues may be made available as resources to the Board, as requested by the Board majority.
[Amended 2-11-2013 by Ord. No. 2013-02]
No member of the Board may be a member of the Schenectady Police Department, an elected official, a City officer, or an employee of the City (other than the Public Safety Commissioner serving as an ex-officio member). Members may not serve or remain on the Board if they have been convicted of any felony. All members shall be residents of the City of Schenectady. No two members shall be related. A "relative" shall be defined as a spouse, parent, stepparent, sibling, step-sibling, sibling’s spouse, child, stepchild, uncle, aunt, nephew, niece, or first cousin.
[Amended 2-12-2007 by Ord. No. 2007-2; 4-13-2009 by Ord. No. 2009-04; 2-11-2013 by Ord. No. 2013-02]
In accordance with the provisions of the New York State Public Officers Law, any member whose term has expired shall hold over until his or her replacement shall be named; any replacement shall hold office for the balance of the term. Any vacancy in office shall be filled by Mayoral appointment, with Council confirmation, of a successor for the balance of the term. The Board shall notify any nominating organization at least 60 days prior to the expiring term of a person nominated by that organization. The Mayor shall make every effort to make such replacement appointment from said nomination or nominations within said sixty-day period.
A member may be appointed to two consecutive terms. Upon the successful completion of two consecutive terms, the member may not be reappointed to membership on the Board for at least one year from the end of the last term in office.
Board members shall participate, within the first year of appointment, in training provided by the Schenectady Police Department, its Office of Professional Standards and the City of Schenectady's Law Department. Additional training, as agreed upon by the Board, will be provided and will include, but not be limited to, issues such as human relations, mediation and conflict management.
A member of the Board may be removed by a two-thirds vote of the Board for cause, which shall include but not be limited to, unexcused absences, violation of confidentiality, refusal to complete training and conflict of interest.
[Amended 2-11-2013 by Ord. No. 2013-02]
Five of nine members shall constitute a quorum for the transaction of business. The Board shall meet at least once per month, and more often as it by resolution may deem necessary. The Board shall by resolution establish the time and place of its regular meetings.
[Amended 2-11-2013 by Ord. No. 2013-02]
The members of the Board, upon being appointed, shall convene and select a Chairperson and Secretary, and shall establish such rules and regulations, in writing, to be maintained by the Chairperson and distributed, as amended from time to time, to all Board members. The Board by resolution or bylaw may establish such other officers as it deems necessary for the transaction of business. Proceedings of all meetings shall be governed by the current edition of Robert’s Rules of Order.
The Board shall encourage and facilitate mediation of any complaint, as a first step in the appropriate cases. To this end, it shall establish a list of approved mediators and their qualifications. All such mediators shall be subject to the approval of the Board majority. The Board may hire or contract for the services of a mediation facilitator, which may be a person, an institution, or an agency. Participation in mediation shall be voluntary, and shall not be construed as a bar to either a civil lawsuit or criminal prosecution, or settlement of the same.
[Amended 4-13-2009 by Ord. No. 2009-05]
The Board shall have the power to independently review complaints made to it concerning the policies and procedures of the Schenectady Police Department. The Board may hire an independent investigator to review or investigate complaints about policy or procedure, especially when the same allege violations of civil rights or the use of excessive force. Complaints shall be untimely unless filed within 45 days following the incident giving rise to the complaint. The complaint shall be investigated and a report filed with the Board within 30 days after the filing of the complaint unless unusual or extraordinary circumstances require a longer period of time for investigation. Where unusual or extraordinary circumstances exist, the Police Department shall report the existence and nature of the circumstances to the Board. The Board shall render its decision concerning the investigation of the Department within 30 days following the receipt of the Police Department’s investigation report.
The Board hall have the power to review the investigation of civilian complaints against members of the Schenectady Police Department by review of the investigation by the Office of Professional Standards of the Police Department in a double-blind system. All complaints concerning members of the Department should be filed with the Police Department’s Office of Professional Standards. Complaints may also be filed with or at the Schenectady Human Rights Commission, the Schenectady NAACP, or City Hall. Complaints may also be initially filed with any other intake location, place or center indicated or provided by the Board, but shall be thereafter immediately forwarded to the Office of Professional Standards. Complaints must allege one or more of the following:
Harassment, which is repeated, unwarranted verbal or physical annoyances or unwarranted threats or demands;
Use of unnecessary or excessive force, which is the use of greater physical force than reasonably necessary to repel an attacker or terminate resistance, not including the force reasonably necessary to effect a lawful pursuit;
Use of language or conduct that is insulting, demeaning or humiliating, including harsh, violent, profane or derogatory language that would demean the dignity of an individual or reasonably be judged as racial, ethnic or sexist slurs;
Discriminatory treatment based on a person’s race, color, religion, national origin, sex, handicap, political affiliation, source of income or place of business or residence; or
Complaint forms should include a statement that the filing of a complaint is not a bar to filing a lawsuit for injury or damages, nor a bar to prosecution for perjury or filing a false instrument. The Board shall not itself participate in an internal affairs investigation, nor shall it issue subpoenas concerning the same. The Board shall be provided with all documents relating to an investigation. The time limits for filing and reporting of an internal complaint shall be as provided in the Policy and Procedure Manual of the Schenectady Police Department relating to professional standards complaints. Complaints shall be untimely unless filed within 45 days following the incident giving rise to the complaint. The complaint shall be investigated and a report filed with the Board within 30 days after the filing of the complaint, unless unusual or extraordinary circumstances require a longer period of time for investigation. Where unusual or extraordinary circumstances exist, the Police Department shall report the existence and nature of the circumstances to the Board. The Board shall render its decision concerning the investigation of the Department within 30 days following the receipt of the Police Department’s investigation report. The Board may hire an independent investigator to review the professional standards investigation of any complaint where the same alleges violations of civil rights or the use of excessive force.
[Amended 4-13-2009 by Ord. No. 2009-05]
An annual, independent audit, by a consultant selected by the Board, of all complaints and their investigations shall be completed; the results will be made available to the Mayor, the City Council and the Board.
The Board shall have the power to make findings upon its deliberations upon a review of a civilian complaint in the following form: that after a review of the complaint and its investigation, the findings may be found to be approved, disapproved, unable to be determined, returned for reevaluation, or referred to the Mayor and City Council, both of which have subpoena power. The complainant shall be notified in writing of the Board's findings within 30 days of those findings.
The Board shall have the power to make findings upon its deliberations concerning policies and procedures in whatever form it deems necessary, including reports and referrals to any other agency or institution of competent jurisdiction.
The Board shall have as part of its mission the duty to recommend changes in City policy and procedures to the Mayor, City Council, and Public Safety Commissioner, and to review the effectiveness of local policies, laws and ordinances concerning police functions and recommend changes as it deems fit.
The Board shall charge and oversee its paid staff with the responsibility to:
Design programs to foster improved relations between the Schenectady Police Department and the citizens of the City of Schenectady;
Become knowledgeable on procedures and operations;
Provide a forum by which the citizens of Schenectady can educate themselves with regard to general police operations, as well as to educate and inform the Police Department on the ever-changing needs of the citizens;
Cooperate with the various civic organizations within the City of Schenectady in order to fulfill the objectives of this chapter;
Provide insight and recommendations to the Mayor and Council of the City of Schenectady on new and existing procedures which will improve the effectiveness of police and community relations;
Prepare and/or recommend and/or promote youth outreach programs.
[Amended 2-12-2007 by Ord. No. 2007-2]
The Board shall report its findings in summary form at least quarterly to the Mayor, City Council, and Chief of Police. The report should contain at a minimum the activities participated in, statistics on complaints received and reviewed, and training had and received. As much as is possible with respect to legal requirements, such reports, or parts thereof, should also be made available to the public.
[Amended 2-12-2007 by Ord. No. 2007-2]
The Board may recruit, interview, and recommend the employment of an Executive Director, administrative support personnel, investigator, educator, or outreach specialist. Investigative and administrative staff support services should, whenever possible, be provided by independent contractors, subject to all applicable local and state laws and ordinances.
All meetings of the Board shall be open to the public unless an executive session is warranted under provisions of the New York State Open Meetings Law.
Upon written request of the Mayor, Corporation Counsel, or complainant, citing the existence of a civil or criminal court action, the Board shall suspend inquiry into any particular event or complaint up to or until such time as the court action is concluded. The inquiry may be resumed upon conclusion of the court action.
The Mayor and the City Council shall, within 90 days from the adoption of this chapter, each appoint 10 Schenectady residents to an Advisory Committee for ongoing study of and subsequent recommendations on the civilian police review process. Membership of the Advisory Committee shall be diverse and representative of constituencies and neighborhoods from throughout the City. The Executive Director of the Schenectady Civilian Police Review Board shall be a voting member of the Advisory Committee.
The Advisory Committee shall be charged with studying such issues as the impact of the City-PBA contract and State Civil Service Law on the process; future roles for outside local, state and federal agencies, including but not limited to the Schenectady County District Attorney's office and Sheriff's Department; as well as other related issues that may arise from the continued work of the Schenectady Civilian Police Review Board. The Advisory Committee shall consider if changes are warranted and draft a strategy to implement those changes with the goal being a more responsive, independent police complaint review process.
The Advisory Committee shall report its findings and recommendations to the Mayor, City Council and Civilian Police Review Board within 18 months of its formation. Upon acceptance of those findings and recommendations, the Advisory Committee shall cease to exist.
Editor's Note: Former § 93-23, Term, was repealed 6-27-2005 by Ord. No. 2005-11.
If any part or parts of this chapter are for any reason held to be invalid, such decision shall not affect the validity of the remaining portions of this chapter.