Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Pushback grows against changes to board that investigates police misconduct complaints

Syracuse Common Councilor Chol Majok, left, and his colleagues meet with Police Chief Joe Cecile, right, at a budget review session Apr. 29, 2024.
Scott Willis
Syracuse Common Councilor Chol Majok, left, and his colleagues meet with Police Chief Joe Cecile, right, at a budget review session Apr. 29, 2024.

Syracuse community members who helped create the Citizen Review Board are pushing back against efforts that they say compromise its ability to objectively investigate complaints of police misconduct. Nancy Keefe Rhodes was part of the task forces that created the CRB in the 1990s and guided its revision in 2011.

“I don't think it's a catastrophe, but I think it's very problematic to have these amendments," Rhodes said.

There’s growing outcry from Rhodes and others about amendments narrowly passed by Syracuse Common Councilors last week that give council more control over the board’s operation. They include council approval of a CRB administrator, and oversight by the city clerk of personnel, budget, and office policy. Rhodes calls the legislative process hasty and secretive, a sharp contrast to the open dialogue of decades past.

“There were many, many, many calls to please hold public hearings, to please have a meeting of the public safety committee of the council, to please allow for some discussion and some community input on this," Rhodes said. "All of those fell on deaf ears.”

Council President Helen Hudson and Councilor Chol Majok brought the amendments to the agenda. Councilors did not publicly discuss the changes for the nearly three weeks it was on the agenda. Most waited until just before the vote to express their opinions. Majok says there was no need for discussion.

“When councilors say nothing about it and there are no questions raised, that's a sentiment of the council," Majok said. "There are issues that become very sensitive. Usually when we do a committee meeting, it's out of the request of the councilors, and there was no such request from councilors.”

Majok says the CRB is not performing effectively, and council oversight is needed. The board has struggled with completing complaint investigations in a timely manner, holding hearings, and even making a quorum at its own meetings. But Nancy Keefe Rhodes says the council itself hasn’t been attentive to ensuring the success of the CRB under current legislation.

“The councilors who now want to run the CRB haven't kept their own appointments up to date, and that seems serious to me," Rhodes said. "It doesn't seem like what they're trying to do is is help the CRB. So the process is deeply alarming to me.”

Rhodes says seats have been left vacant as board members leave or when terms expire. She says the current enabling legislation should be sufficient to address most of the CRB's current challenges, as long as councilors and the Walsh administration follow it. In the end, she says the legislation should be fixed correctly or repealed altogether.

The mayor is holding a required hearing Wednesday before signing or vetoing the measure.

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