Committee advises Meriden to create civilian police review board

MERIDEN – The city will have a civilian review committee to deal with all incidents of police use of force if city council follows a recommendation from a committee that last met on Wednesday.

With Republican Councilor Bob Williams Jr. as the sole dissenter, the Use of Force Review Panel voted 7 to 1 in a 3.5-hour virtual meeting on Wednesday to issue a 34-page final report recommending that the board form the nine-member review committee. The vote comes after a series of 5 to 3 votes on June 28 showed the committee was in favor of a board.

The report also describes the history of the committee’s meetings and research to help the board see how it arrived at its recommendation. Committee chairman Michael Cardona, who is also a member of city council, hopes other councilors will follow the advice.

“The extra level of external, as opposed to internal, oversight is a good idea,” Cardona said Thursday.

Williams disagreed, saying that with the police chief, city manager and council’s public safety committee already in place, the city did not need a civilian review board.

“I know that we have had a lot of information shared with us from the PD and there has clearly been no problem with the use of force. [in Meriden] and we didn’t have a permanent problem with that, ”said Williams, hailing the committee’s report as excellent and comprehensive.

“Where does it go next, quite frankly?” Is this thing starting to try to define the police? It certainly seems like a conversation in a lot of your big cities, ”Williams added.

“Where is this thing going?” Is that the first point, and we’re moving to three or four other talking points as well? “

The council formed the study committee amid national furor over the police brutality that led to the death of Minneapolis resident George Floyd last year.

The lack of use of force in complaints filed against Meriden police, on average half a dozen a year, argues as much for council formation as against it, committee members said. While a civil council has its challenges, “the committee agrees with the view that it is best to be proactive in creating such a council before a tragedy strikes the city”, according to the committee report.

Acting only in an advisory capacity – meaning that its actions in and of themselves would not have the power to change anything – the board would review all internal business investigations completed “only as regards [their] completeness, completeness, accuracy and objectivity ”and vote on whether or not to approve the findings of the investigation.

A letter detailing the individual votes and providing a summary of the findings and recommendations would then be sent to the city council’s public safety committee, city manager and police chief, according to the report.

The civilian review board would perform several functions, according to Cardona and the report, including:

â–  Help residents “feel validated, regardless of the outcome, when an independent supervisor reviews their case. »■ Improve relations with the police and the general image within the community. . “

“Local officials noted that a CRB was helping them in their efforts to eliminate police misconduct and, in some cases, reduce civil lawsuits against the municipality,” according to the report. “Once the chief has made a final decision, the only recourse for a dissatisfied complainant appears to be legal action, which could be costly and inconvenient for many citizens. “

In the current configuration of the ministry, “no appeal can be lodged against its decision”, indicates the report.

A civilian review board would follow individual complaints and general trends and see whether police officers were fairly disciplined or whether police misconduct was mismanaged, Cardona said.

While four of its nine members would be appointed residents in the city’s four electoral districts, five of the council members would be professionals with professional backgrounds who would help them understand the legal aspects of confidentiality, freedom laws. information and criminal and civil courts and laws. , indicates the report.

Lawyers, retired criminal justice professionals, educators, mental health and health professionals, clergy or local business owners would be among those eligible for seats in general. No member is to be a former Meriden police officer unless at least five years have passed since retirement, the report says.

The board will consider the committee’s report and recommendation at its next meeting or one thereafter, Cardona said.

[email protected]: @JrSambides

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