A proposed solution to a deadlock in the Police-Community Relations Committee was unanimously returned to a City Council committee for further review on Monday after the councilor who made the proposal said he had acted too quickly.
The PCR Committee has not acted on complaints against police officers at recent meetings due to concerns over the complaint procedure, including whether or not complaints should be heard in executive session. Their regular monthly meeting is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. tonight at the Senior Center.
At a Public Safety Committee meeting last month, Councilor John Maynard said he did not support hearing the complaints in executive session after they had become public record. However, he proposed that the police chief should not sign off on complaints—making them public record—until the committee reviews them. He said this would allow the complaints to be heard in open session with the officers’ names redacted.
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Maynard said Monday that he made the proposal in an effort to allow more productive meetings of the PCR Committee, but that he may have acted too hastily. He said the Public Safety Committee should look into various aspects of the issue, including how complaints against police are handled in other communities and the possibility of expanding the scope of the PCR Committee to all public safety departments.
“That was, for lack of better words, a rush job to at least get that committee functioning again,” said Maynard.
Supporters of the executive session method say complaints against other municipal employees are not discussed in public and that the method has the potential to unnecessarily embarrass officers. Opponents of the method say police are under more scrutiny due to their greater powers and responsibilities, such as the use of deadly force, and that public hearings are a way of ensuring accountability in reviewing complaints.
At its January meeting, the committee voted to table complaints until the procedural concerns were resolved. At its February meeting, the first one for three new members appointed to the committee, a 6-4 vote approved the hearing of complaints with the names of officers and complainants redacted. Mayor Daryl Finizio, who has supported the public hearing of complaints, responded by saying the names were public record and reading them into the record. Subsequent votes to hear the complaints publicly or table them failed in tie votes.
Councilor Adam Sprecace recommended that the PCR Committee not take any action on complaints until the issue is resolved. He said the committee will be able to do other business, such as planning for community events.
“There’s a lot to consider here, and that additional time is needed to get it right,” said Sprecace.
Council President Michael Passero also said he thought the proposed solution was acting too quickly on a complex matter.
“I have full faith that Mr. [PCR chairman Wayne] Vendetto will be able to operate in the interim while we’re working these issues out,” said Passero.