The Police-Community Relations Committee said on Tuesday that it is awaiting an answer on which entity would be charged with investigating an e-mail in which Police Chief Margaret Ackley accuses the committee chairman and police union president of trying to disband the committee.
The committee voted at a May 1 meeting to request the City Council and Mayor Daryl Finizio to investigate the matter. However, committee chairman Jay Wheeler said it was unclear which part of the city government would look into it.
Wade Hyslop, president pro tempore of the City Council and the council liaison to the committee, said the matter came up during at Monday’s council meeting. He said there was no clear indication from this who would have the investigative authority.
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“That’s not an adequate answer, but that’s the answer I can give you,” said Hyslop.
In the e-mail, sent on Sept. 29 to resident Kathleen Mitchell, Ackley urges Mitchell to rally supporters to the committee’s next meeting. Ackley also alleged that Wheeler and Todd Lynch, president of the New London Police Union, would attempt to get the council and law director to disband the committee.
Ackley says in the e-mail that civilian complaints against the are read in public, and that Lynch has argued that doing so is unfair to police officers. She says Wheeler has complained that the committee lacks power to make a decision on whether an investigation is adequate because it cannot view all of the documents in the file, and has sought the establishment of a police commission instead.
“He and Lynch are both after the same thing, but trying to get there by different paths so it doesn’t appear to be favoring the police,” says Ackley. “Without this committee the public would never know which cops have complaints lodged against them and what the complaints say. (Maybe no one will find out that Lynch has more than any other cop).”
Ackley says investigative reports were once read in executive session but were later read in the open. She said other documents in the complaints cannot be released under the Freedom of Information Act.
“I’m really tired of fighting Wheeler, it’s never ending, call your friends, people need to be there to make sure that Wheeler and Lynch can’t trick people into letting this committee be disbanded or becoming a police commission where Jay and company can determine which complaints are accepted and who gets investigated,” Ackley writes.
Earlier this year, Lynch in her individual and municipal capacities, charging libel and violation of First Amendment rights. Lynch claims Ackley has acted in a retaliatory manner due to criticisms of the chief, including disagreements over how civilian complaints are addressed. The lawsuit also cites several different e-mails between Ackley and Mitchell, whom the suit describes as talk show host, frequent commenter on news sites, and “known political gadfly.”
“It’s an insult to me and this committee,” Wheeler said of the Sept. 29 e-mail.
Committee members also called for more communication between the committee, city government, and police department. Ackley was absent due to a medical emergency involving her father, but committee member Wayne Vendetto said the deputy chief or another police administrator should have attended to present information on civilian complaints. Darrin O’Mara, representing the police union, questioned whether such absences could represent a breach of the committee’s consent agreement.
“Every month there’s an excuse for why we’re not getting information, and I’m sick of it,” said committee member Marie-Ann Gravell.
“It’s not right,” said Wheeler. “It shouldn’t be this way, and it needs to change.”