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Police-Community Relations Committee At Standstill On Complaints

New London committee refuses to address complaints against police officers until procedural concerns are answered

The New London Police-Community Relations Committee refused to address a complaint against a police officer on Wednesday, saying concerns over the complaints procedure need to be addressed first.

The committee voted 4-0 to table a complaint following a discussion of the procedure. The two New London Police Department representatives to the committee, Deputy Chief Peter Reichard and Officer Todd Lynch, abstained from the decision.

Committee members have questioned a March 2010 opinion by the city’s law director to review complaints against police officers in public at the meetings. Committee member Jay Wheeler motioned to table the single complaint to be reviewed on Wednesday until this issue can be resolved. Wheeler said the committee also has concerns over whether Chief Margaret Ackley should be able to sign complaints before the committee reviews them.

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Chairman Wayne Vendetto said the committee formerly reviewed complaints in executive session. He said the committee determines whether a complaint is adequate or inadequate and that it can be returned to the chief at that point. He said he considered complaints against officers to be personnel issues that should be heard in executive session. Vendetto said the committee can also run its meetings as it sees fit with the approval of the City Council, but that the council never took a stance on the legal opinion.

“A lot of these things need to be ironed out,” he said.

Lynch, who is president of the New London Police Union, said the union questioned why the procedure was changed. He accused Ackley of making the change in the name of transparency but having an ulterior motive.

“It has been our belief all along that the change was made to humiliate or disgrace union members,” said Lynch.

In a September 2011 e-mail to resident Kathleen Mitchell, Ackley said some documents in the complaints cannot be released under the Freedom of Information Act. She said Wheeler, then the committee chairman, complained that the committee was unable to make an adequate investigation without seeing all of the documents. Ackley also alleged in the e-mail that Wheeler and Lynch were attempting to use this as a basis to disband the committee and form a separate police commission, saying that without the committee “the public would never know which cops have complaints lodged against them and what the complaints say.”

Wheeler first motioned to review the complaint in executive session, saying they could be challenged on this method if need be. Zak Leavy, executive assistant to Mayor Daryl Finizio, responded that Finzio’s stance is that no administrative staff should go into executive session on a complaint since it would violate the legal opinion.

Reichard also said he has been directed by the mayor not to release the complaint to the committee if members intend to review it in executive session. Vendetto said the committee could try to go into executive session on a personnel matter, but that it would not have the officer’s name, complaint number, or information to review.

“The tail doesn’t wag the dog,” Wheeler replied. “Send it back.”

Vendetto said he will meet with City Council President Michael Passero and contact Ackley on the matter. The complaint will be tabled until the committee’s next meeting.

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Bud Wizer January 03, 2013 at 03:03 PM
My, oh my. Didn't the charter-revision commission do a wonderful job? Such forethought, such cognizance of our city's convoluted confabulations of political gamesmanship. Fasten your seat belts, folks. This one's gonna be a helluva ride. Wheeler backed the wrong horse in the mayoral election, is close to the two captains who were forced out, and didn't get re-elected to the Democratic Town Committee. Councilor John Maynard, Wheeler's Bud, ain't too fond of the mayor or the chief. Councilor Passero is a firefighters' union mainstay, who I expect will say he can involve himself in this without a conflict of interest because he's not a cop. Forget that he's a public-safety department employee and union "mediator." Councilor Sprecace will enjoy the fireworks as a sideshow that makes the Dems look foolish. Councilor Nolan will likely have to bow out, his being a cop and all. Councilor McSparren? Anybody's guess there. She's the jack in the box. And so we are left with good 'ol Reverend/Councilor Hyslop and pro educator Councilor Don Macrino, both sensible, sedate gentlemen for sure. It's an election year. LIke I said: Fasten your seat belts folks; curves at high speed comin' up! The best bet is that scapegoating the mayor will be this year's bi-partisan affair. This is your moment, Bill Satti. The only ones who will benefit by the mayor and council continuing to go at each others necks is the GOP. What are we gonna do? Hand them the keys to City Hall again?
Kitty Crow January 04, 2013 at 01:58 AM
The day Chief Ackley's personnel file is open to the public; with all its cushy backroom deals for all to read...is the day any complaints about city personel should ever to discussed in a public forum for any reason !!!!!!!! The commitee should proceed as its always did (in private) before Chief Ackley and the boy wonders Finzio and Levy ever came into power !!!!
Jane Wickham January 04, 2013 at 02:41 PM
It is business as usual in New London... Jay Wheeler hates the chief and will do anything to upset her authority... even abuse the system put in place to give citizens a way to be sure that ALL the people have a voice! For Shame!!!! He moved Jay! He lives in Waterford now!

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