Last month, drama broke out in Rochester when members of its Police Accountability Board (PAB) called for the ouster of its acting manager, Duwaine Bascoe.
According to Rochester First, the calls to terminate Bascoe come on the heels of the board placing PAB Chief of Policy and Oversight Michael Higgins on administrative leave, presumably under Brascoe’s direction.
In a letter calling for Brascoe’s removal, signed by nearly 20 board members, it is claimed that:
“Since Deputy Chief of Investigations Duwaine Brascoe was named acting Manager of the PAB, he has stoked an enabled an atmosphere of harassment, intimidation, retaliation and confusion…
…Members of PAB staff have recently made complaints to Mr. Higgins about Mr. Bascoe’s mismanagement, misconduct, and incompetence. Given Mr. Higgins’ suspension, the undersigned urgently need to discuss these issues with the Board in a formal setting in order to bring transparency, promote accountability, and fulfill the mission that the people of Rochester have charged us with.”
Further adding to the drama is Higgins’ own open letter to the city following the board’s decision in which he drops a bombshell allegation against Brascoe:
“I am dismayed that the City has taken no action to investigate my whistleblower complaint that Mr. Bascoe was intoxicated by drugs or alcohol at a staff meeting on October 3, 2022. To date, the City has not contacted me about my complaint and apparently taken no action to investigate this incident to which there were over 20 witnesses and contemporaneous electronic evidence.”
Brascoe adamantly denied the accusation, citing a migraine disorder and medication used to treat it as the culprit behind his alleged state.
And while the board goes after Bascoe, Bascoe is calling on the New York State Attorney General’s Office to launch an investigation into his predecessor, Executive Director Conor Dwyer Reynolds.
Reynolds’ suspension was announced in May, with an ongoing investigation into undisclosed complaints underway. To complicate matters further, the PAB under Bascoe has accused Reynolds of obstructing the investigation into him.
Bascoe claims that Reynolds has been meeting with members of the board while under investigation.
“Collusion and interference with a governmental investigation is a crime. It’s beyond time for this agency to address this matter head-on and to finally bring these known issues out publicly,” he said.
Ultimately, it appears that a tangled web of organizational politics has consumed the Rochester PAB, which appears to be seriously undermining the mission of the board. The board was implemented through a referendum which received 75% approval. However, since its founding the board has been rocked by instability, including one former chair being embroiled by a sexual harassment scandal, power struggles with the Rochester City Council, and accusing the city of preventing its investigations. It is unclear what will come of the calls to fire Rascoe, but it is obvious that foundational issues are plaguing the council and undermining its ability to be a trusted public institution in Rochester.
Jacksonville, Florida is yet another American city where activists are attempting to gain influence over local law enforcement through the implementation of a civilian review board.