Schenectady police review board finally getting the attention it deserves
The word “oversight” has two rather contradictory meanings: the action of watching over something on the one hand, and the unintentional failure to notice or do something on the other. The Schenectady Civilian Police Review Board practices the first kind with the police department, and is the victim of the second kind with the failure of those who are supposed to appoint board members to do so.
As a result, the nine-member body now has four vacancies, and most of the time can’t even get a quorum at its monthly meetings. This is an important board and the appointment process needs attention, which, fortunately, it is now getting from the City Council.
The problem of vacancies has plagued the board all along and is a big reason why it has often had a backlog of cases. It’s also why the council, a few years ago, reduced its size from the original 11 to nine.
That still didn’t work, though, as the seven nonprofit agencies with appointment power would let months, or even years, go by before naming a replacement when someone left. One of the agencies, the local chapter of the NAACP, disbanded a few years ago and its seat on the board remains unfilled. As does, inexcusably, the council’s seat; it also hasn’t been filled for years.
At last week’s meeting the council was all set to act on a suggestion by one of the board’s earliest advocates, the Rev. Philip Grigsby, to give the council and mayor the power to appoint a replacement if a member leaves and the agency hasn’t named anyone within 60 days. But one council member, Leesa Perazzo, objected, on the grounds that the board must be perceived as representative of the community, not filled with council appointees.
We agree that this is the ideal, but also believe that council appointments could work as long as there is an outreach effort, as there has been in the past.
But Perazzo was insistent that she could get the agencies to appoint people and also get good candidates for the council and mayor to appoint (the mayor’s choice for the board, John Mootooveren, has resigned to take a seat on the council). “Give me 30 days,” she said. And apparently she has already delivered; she says that all of the agency seats except the NAACP’s are now filled or about to be, and she has five resumes for the council and mayor to choose from for their appointments.
Good job by the councilwoman. Now let the board get on with its needed work.