.

Councilor Pitches Solution On PCR Deadlock

John Maynard suggests alteration to procedure on hearing complaints before New London's Police Community Relations Committee

The chairman of the Public Safety Committee of the City Council offered a solution Monday intending to break deadlock on the Police-Community Relations Committee.

The PCR has been at a standstill over the procedure for how to address complaints against police officers. Some members feel the complaints should be addressed in executive session, keeping officers’ names private, while others feel the process should be done in open session. The PCR has not acted on complaints at its past two meetings pending a decision by the Council.

Let Patch save you time. Get great local stories like this delivered right to your inbox or smartphone every day with our free newsletter. Simple, fast sign-up here.

Councilor John Maynard proposed that the police chief should not sign off on complaints—thereby making them public—until the PCR has had a chance review them. He said this would allow the complaints to be heard in open session with the officers’ names redacted before the complaint became public under the Freedom of Information Act.

Maynard and Councilor Marie Friess-McSparran agreed to send the proposal to the full membership of the Council. Committee member Donald Macrino was absent.

Concerns with public session

PCR chairman Wayne Vendetto said that the committee’s role has been to determine whether internal investigations of complaints against New London Police Department officers are adequate. He said the complaints and investigation were reviewed in executive session for decades as a personnel matter after the committee received complaints from the deputy chief.

“The personnel reason is they have not been received as public information at this point,” Vendetto said. “So once the deputy [chief] has it, it’s still a personnel matter. Once it’s sent back to the chief it’s still a personnel matter until the chief signs off on this report.”

Vendetto said the change to public session was made in 2010 after the PCR chairman at that time asked the law director, then Tom Londregan, about the possible change. Vendetto said the police department is the only municipal department where complaints are reviewed in open.

“There are things that come up that are not for print. Words that are not for print and for the public,” said Vendetto.

Todd Lynch, president of the New London Police Union, questioned the timing of the change and said he thought it had been instituted by Chief Margaret Ackley in an effort to discredit union members.

“The union has always wanted one thing and that’s fairness to the officers,” said Lynch. “We’re not looking to hide anything. We’re not looking to hide investigations. But we’ve always asked through the political leaders, through the committee members, ‘Why was it changed?’”

Support of public session

Committee member Kris Wraight, who was unable to attend Monday’s meeting, said in an e-mail that the committee was formed due to complaints of improper police actions and that the committee must be accountable to citizens rather than officers. She said the committee should remain open and transparent as a demonstration of public trust.

“Many citizens and youth of New London still have a great deal of mistrust for
New London police officers and a tremendous amount of work still needs to
be done to build that trust up,” said Wraight. “Going back into executive session will only damage this trust further.”

Acting Chief Peter Reichard said the open session allows residents to confirm that proper procedure is being followed in handling the complaints. He said the police administration is also maintaining Mayor Daryl Finizio’s assertion that the process should be open.

“We will continue to go in the direction of the administration, and the direction of the administration at this time is everything is going to be transparent,” Reichard said.

PCR member Erica Richardson said she was frustrated with the committee’s stalemate, particularly an attempt at the last meeting to redact documents that were already public. She said there is usually sparse attendance at the PCR meetings and that public sessions have little chance of embarrassing officers.

“I don’t hear enough about protecting the citizens and residents of New London,” said Richardson. “Police officers are in a unique position and should be held to a higher standard than any other agency out there.”

Public Safety Committee discussion

Councilor Adam Sprecace suggested that as a compromise, the PCR might hear complaints with names redacted and an announcement to attendees that the names are available through a Freedom of Information Act request.

“It seems to me that your committee can do the work that is required by ordinance without having the names identified in public session,” he said.

Council President Michael Passero said the question was whether to hold a review after the internal investigation was complete and public. He later asked Law Director Jeffrey Londregan if the names of the complainant and officer were subject to FOI once a complaint has been filed, and Londregan said they were.

“It seems to be having it in open session but pretending not to know the officer’s name would be a bit of a ruse,” said Passero.

In suggesting that the PCR’s input be heard earlier in the process, Maynard said he did not consider the committee’s role to be pertinent unless it could contribute before the chief finalizes the process. He also said he was opposed to hearing complaints in executive session, prompting a heated exchange with PCR member Carl Lee.

“This is baloney,” Lee said at one point.

The matter will go before the full Council at their regular meeting on March 4. The PCR’s next monthly meeting will take place the next day.

Follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

Tambria Moore February 26, 2013 at 02:36 PM
Unless this oversight group has the teeth to launch independent investigations and audit the police department as well as the authority to subpoena evidence and require officers to attend mediations with New London residents, it has little effect in protecting residents from potential abuses of power, whether in the police administration or the employees, whether behind closed doors or in public. Additionally, when members of the group have a relationship with respondents or investigators, or have witnessed the event that is the subject of the complaint, they need to abstain from participating in this process. Vulnerable groups in our city do not need cheer leaders promoting community involvement, as much as they need representation against authorities that can abuse their civil liberties.
Bud Lite February 26, 2013 at 03:35 PM
What New London needs is a Board of Police Commissioners. That is how it is done in most towns. That commission serves as oversight for the police and a link to accountability for the community. But the mayor in New London would never allow that because he would feel in impacts his power and authority.
Bud Wizer February 26, 2013 at 04:54 PM
Those of us who can recall the federal court case that mandated the creation of this commission in New London can, if asked, testify to unnecessary use of excessive force directed toward minorities and young men with long hair during the decade 1966-'76. A state policeman who with his flashlight beat in broad daylight a young man along Route 32 in front of Connecticut College and subsequently became a civilian with a biz in Niantic is among the morst memorable incidents of police brutailty and citizen complaints of those years. And a 1973 Thanksgiving Eve brutal arrest of a young man exiting a bar on Bank Street not long before the federal review of NLPD operations was witnessed by many who gave sworn depositions to an attorney for our region's legal-aid agency, Legacy Inc. Mr. Lee is a prominent member of the city's Neighborhood Watch organization, which can be said to be on generally cozy terms with the PD. He should not be on the PCRC. And Council President Passero, a member of the firefighter's union and city employee, should recuse himself from this discussion to avoid even the appearance of a conflict of interest. Officer Lynch is the PD's, not the public's advocate. The buck stops at the mayor's desk, since the police admininstration is under his command. Surely Mr. Vendetto has not forgotten the rash of civilian complaints that were the forces that compelled our city's PCRC into being. He might wish he could, but I doubt he can.
Spencer February 26, 2013 at 04:57 PM
I am now wondering how often our police officers are responding to calls--be they dangerous call or just routine wellness calls--with the thought of "I better behave here--otherwise they going to be sending me to kangaroo kourt!!" It is thought process like that which can get a police officer killed at a critical time during thier response.
Tambria Moore February 26, 2013 at 08:55 PM
Actually, Spencer, these "kangaroo kourts", when effective, have been cited as the cause for many improvements in public safety nationally by police departments and municipalities. Any behavior that would be the subject of a successful complaint would not be one our community or officers with integrity and passion for public safety would wish to occur in New London. In fact, the rash and illegal behavior of some officers is at the expense of the best and finest officers who are tarred by that brush of brutality or abuse of power. This stigma caused by peers in the system is preventable and avoidable and communities should go to whatever lengths are necessary within the law to protect all from abuses of power and/or criminal activity. Our police are trained to respond appropriately and well, as they apparently did today to the alleged bank robbery. They should be equally praised when they do so. Officers killed in the line of duty are generally murdered by intent of the killer, or killed as a result of their failure or the failure of others to follow their training. Sometimes it is just a tragic accident. Do correct me if I am wrong.
Tambria Moore February 26, 2013 at 08:58 PM
http://www.nleomf.org/facts/officer-fatalities-data/causes.html
Tambria Moore February 26, 2013 at 09:00 PM
http://www.nleomf.org/assets/pdfs/reports/2012-Preliminary-Report.pdf
Tambria Moore February 26, 2013 at 09:06 PM
I don't mean to over emphasize failure to follow training without solid facts above... I refer you to the 2011 report instead. I don't find mention of officers thinking about oversight committees as a factor in officer deaths. http://www.theiacp.org/portals/0/pdfs/feloniousreport.pdf
Jack Everett February 27, 2013 at 03:10 PM
The complaints are public business and bringing them to public attention would make it easier to have open independent investigations instead of the internal investigations that are nothing but coverups for police that break the laws of the community.

Boards

More »
Got a question? Something on your mind? Talk to your community, directly.
Note Article
Just a short thought to get the word out quickly about anything in your neighborhood.
Share something with your neighbors.What's on your mind?What's on your mind?Make an announcement, speak your mind, or sell somethingPost something