Issue now goes to City Council, where public comment is scheduled for Tuesday, November 14
After hearing a number of residents again demand an independent police review board with the power to investigate civilian complaints about police misconduct, New Rochelle’s Community-Police Partnership Board (CPPB) voted on November 3 to recommend a board empowered only to review police investigations of themselves in response to citizen complaints.
The issue now goes to the City Council, which will hold its next meeting (and a 7:00pm Citizens To Be Heard session) on Tuesday, November 14. Three of the seven members of the current City Council will be replaced in January based on the elections held on Tuesday, November 7.
The CPPB adopted the recommendation of CGR, a consulting firm hired earlier this year, to create a “review-focused” Civilian Complaint Review Board (CCRB), rather than the “investigation-focused” board demanded by the community. CGR’s report acknowledged that a review model would have “limited power to determine police misconduct outcomes,” and a CCRB with investigative powers would better address “community stakeholder concerns about potential police bias…in the review process.” But CGR recommended a review model, explaining that it wished to “balance the community’s desire for an independent body…with the administration’s concerns about cost and broad powers.”
Interviews described in the CGR report showed that community members characterized community/police relations as “mediocre or needing improvement, while NRPD members said their relationship with city residents was “good to great.” Community stakeholders told CGR they felt that “an independent and unbiased group should be available to address police complaints” with “real authority and official capacity to influence change.” Most NRPD leaders, on the other hand, told CGR they “did not see the need for a CCRB” and believed that the current review process was sufficient.
The CGR report and CPPB vote came 18 months after a deadline imposed by the City Council when it passed its police reform plan in March 2021. In a statement by Lisa Burton, read by Lourdes Font, Burton objected to “the deliberate slow-walking of this process” and described the proposed review-only CCRB as “watered down.” “The African American community in New Rochelle has been shaken by violence,” Burton wrote, “yet the level of urgency is missing.”
Aisha Cook, Vice President of the New Rochelle NAACP, referenced the killing of Jarrell Garris by NRPD Detective Steven Conn on July 3—the second killing of a Black man by the NRPD in the past three years. “If our goal is to increase transparency and trust between the community and the membership Police Department,” she said, “more oversight, not less, is needed.”
Martin Sanchez, an attorney and the son and grandson of police officers, called the CGR recommendations “a very sad testament to a do-nothing organization.” Noting the lack of public awareness of New Rochelle’s police reform efforts, particularly in the Latinx community, Sanchez said, “We have to be transparent. But more importantly, we have to be vigilant. You have to have a sense of urgency. I see none of that from anyone here on the platform.”
Dr. Carla Woolbright, former president of the New Rochelle NAACP, said, “There’s no way that we should have a Civilian Complaint Review Board with no authority to do anything but listen to the complaint. We should have our civilians involved that are also part of the investigation process that have access to those investigative records. If we want to build trust between the police and our community, we have to have an open process with people in the community involved that the community trusts….It shouldn’t be the police policing themselves.”
Rodney Bynum, a cousin of Jarrell Garris, noted the failure of the NRPD to discipline the officer who killed his cousin on July 3,2023, and the two-year delay in dismissing Detective Michael Vaccaro, who was caught on video punching and kicking Malik Fogg, another Black man, while Vaccaro was off-duty in 2021. Asking, “You can’t have a review board with enough oversight because that’s going to affect your budget?” he continued, “How does having officers that are on paid leave affect your budget? How does having officers that are being sued for their actions affect your budget? That’s not your budget. That’s our budget. We’re the taxpayers. You work for us. We don’t work for you. But you’re conducting yourselves like you’re working for yourselves.“
Alprentice McCutchen, a teacher at New Rochelle High School, speaking as a parent and educator, expressed concern about “the crisis of interaction … between the youth and institutions within this community” and called for “an authentic Board to let them know that if they ever have a complaint, they know that action can be taken,…that it’s not just a performative set of steps, it’s not just a perfunctory set of steps, it’s something that’s actually going to happen.”
Bruce Soloway, a member of New Rochelle Against Racism (New RoAR), called the CGR report “a betrayal of the people of New Rochelle” and a “sham.” “How much money is too much to save another Black life?” he asked. “How much accountability is too much accountability? The City Council did not create the CPPB and mandate the creation of a CCRB to appease the fears of the police or to balance the city budget. It did so to save lives and improve the safety and quality of life of the people of New Rochelle.”
In conclusion, Deputy Police Commissioner and CPPB Co-Chair Neil Reynolds, speaking only for himself, discussed “facts and feelings.” “Facts can inform feelings, and feelings certainly can inform facts,” he said. “Each of us has views created by our own lived experiences…. Either-or only continues to divide us and cause further conflict. We cannot continue to disregard a fact or a feeling in favor of the other. We have to accept that both can and do exist simultaneously. If we stop talking past each other and stop invalidating each other’s facts and feelings, we will realize that we agree on more than we disagree on when we listen, speak, work, and engage with each other.”
Reynolds then called for a vote, and the CPPB approved the CGR vote by a vote of 10-3. Two present and one former police officer on the board voted “no”, apparently opposing the creation of any review board at all.