Police Review Board members in Schenectady protest loss of seats
SCHENECTADY The Civilian Police Review Board will have just one official member in two weeks, thanks to the changes the City Council made to the board.
Board members met with the mayor and city Councilwoman Denise Brucker to protest the legislation Tuesday. The council removed several agencies that could appoint members to the board, eliminating those members’ seats.
In an unintended consequence, so many other seats were vacant that the changes virtually eliminated the board.
“What do you want to do?” asked the Rev. Emanuel Adams, a board member whose seat was removed, “because these are all the cases.”
He waved a thick folder of complaints about police at Brucker.
Adams and Darlene Lee, whose seat was also abolished, said they felt betrayed when they learned after the vote that their seats were removed.
Council members eliminated the agencies a month ago, after a year of discussion and revision with the board. The board did not see the final version before the public hearing, and board members did not speak at the hearing.
Brucker told them they ought to have attended that hearing. Adams countered that the council ought to have showed them the final version before voting on the matter.
Lee added that the board is now technically left with just one member, Vickie Hurewitz, who has not been trained yet.
Mayor Gary McCarthy said the other members should stay on the board until their successors are trained.
But Brucker said those whose seats were eliminated should leave now, and reapply. The council and mayor can now appoint members-at-large.
Previously, two neighborhood associations in Hamilton Hill could each nominate a member. Several other agencies — including some defunct groups — also nominate members, and the board has hit serious problems when those groups did not promptly nominate a representative when the previous board member’s term expired.
Often, seats have stayed vacant for years, leaving a situation in which the board did not have a quorum to meet unless every single active member was present. At some points, there were so few members that they did not have a quorum even if every active member was there.
To address that, the council eliminated some groups and gave themselves the authority to appoint members.
But Brucker made no promises that Adams or Lee would be reappointed by the council.
The two board members said the council might choose others and leave Hamilton Hill without representation on the board.
“This board was really born up out of the Hill area,” Adams said. “It was really designed for the community, that their complaints be addressed. Who is going to be on this board that lives in that community?”
Lee added, “Whether it’s the Lees or somebody else, someone from that neighborhood needs to be on here. People there saw and witnessed for themselves the corruption of the Schenectady Police Department.”
Board member Helga Schroeter, who represents the League of Women Voters, said she doesn’t live on the Hill but knows that not all police act appropriately.
“I have had my very successful son arrested by the police because he was targeted, when he was in his teens,” she said. “Please don’t think that only people on Hamilton Hill know these issues.”
Several residents of Hamilton Hill said that wasn’t enough. They asked Brucker to change the legislation so that a resident of Hamilton Hill would always be on the board.
“We just want someone on here that knows our community and knows what goes on in our community,” said resident Olivia Adams.
Brucker did not back down.
“The decision is made,” she said.