SYRACUSE, N.Y. (NCC News) — Following protests and outcries during a Public Safety Committee meeting, a common councilor opted to pull back a proposed law that would limit the powers of a citizen police watchdog group.
“What I will recommend to the council is that I withdraw this, ” Councilor Steve Thompson said.
Thompson is a former Syracuse police chief, who is now the chair of the Common Council’s Public Safety Committee. Along with members of Syracuse’s corporation counsel office, Thompson drafted the legislation that the committee discussed during the meeting.
His comments came after several members of the council abruptly left the chambers following comments from a member of the public who had not been given permission to speak during the session, and refused to relinquish the microphone.
“This proposition is racist,” the citizen protester said. “If you don’t want it to be part of your legacy, I will encourage people on the council not to pass it.”
The law Thompson proposed would limit the power of the Citizens Review Board (CRB) , the agency which has served as a watchdog of misconduct in the Syracuse Police Department since 1993.
“All of it, to me, is a slap to the CRB’s face,” Councilor Tim Rudd said. “To say you don’t matter, you have no power.”
The law is widely viewed as a reaction to the Alonzo Grant case from last year. In a civil lawsuit, Grant was awarded $1.5 million after alleged police misconduct by the Syracuse Police Department.
Findings from the CRB were considered pivotal in Grant’s case, but the proposal would have made CRB testimonies inadmissible in court. Instead, the board would be used in an advisory, evaluative capacity for internal city use only.
“There is so much wrong with this proposal,” CRB member Peter McCarthy said. “I didn’t even know where to start.”
Moving forward, Thompson said a public hearing will be held regarding the Citizens Review Board at a later date. Thompson’s term on the Common Council concludes at the end of the year.