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Syracuse Common Council Passes "Right to Know" Act in Move to Increase Police Accountability

WAER file photo

Syracuse Common Councilors took a step Tuesday toward increasing police accountability by passing the Right to Know Act.  The measure essentially codifies the principles in Mayor Walsh’s June 19th executive order giving citizens the right to know who’s stopping them and why, and the right to consent to searches. 

Citizen Review Board Director Ranette Releford says it’s a reminder to police to consider their interactions with the community.

"If you're pulling over an older woman:  What if that was your grandmother?  What if that was your aunt?  You want to treat them with the same respect.  What if that was your brother, your sister, or cousin? You want them to be treated in that manner."

CRB Chairman Peter McCarthy says the ordinance has the potential to change the relationship between police and the community they're sworn to protect.

"Something we've heard from many people in the community is that some of the officers tend to treat members of the community with disrespect.  The Right to Know legislation has the potential to change that relationship, and change the expectation that police will respect the people that they stop."

The common council sought outside counsel to help draw up the ordinance to avoid a conflict of interest with city attorneys, who might be reluctant to tie their own hands in defending the police department.  Now, McCarthy and Releford say the CRB will use its oversight powers to make sure the SPD follows up.

"We're going to be looking at whether or not the legislation was interpreted, if the policy made by SPD falls along the same lines, and whatever training they are going to provide to the department."

Releford says she’s heard of no legal challenges to the ordinance from the police department or its union. The final vote was 7 to 1, with councilor Joe Carni voting no.  Multiple councilors did not respond to interview requests.  The Citizen Review Board can be reached by phone at 448-8750 and email at        


Scott Willis covers politics, local government, transportation, and arts and culture for WAER. He came to Syracuse from Detroit in 2001, where he began his career in radio as an intern and freelance reporter. Scott is honored and privileged to bring the day’s news and in-depth feature reporting to WAER’s dedicated and generous listeners. You can find him on twitter @swillisWAER and email him at