MERIDEN — A proposal before the City Council that would establish a Civilian Review Board to review complaints of police misconduct and use of force has been postponed indefinitely, but is not off the table, the council’s majority leader said.
The Civilian Review Board proposal was listed on the agenda for the council’s Sept. 20 meeting under committee reports as “recommended for addition” by its finance committee.
After several months of deliberations, the Use of Force Review Committee in July issued a 37-page report to the City Council recommending the city adopt a Civilian Review Board.
Deputy Mayor Michael Cardona chaired the committee, whose eight members also included fellow City Councilor Bob Williams Jr., Meriden Police Capt. John Mennone, along with citizens Natacha Kerelejza, Sharlene Kerelejza, Meriden-Wallingford NAACP President Kim Fisher, attorney Ronald Weller and Holly Wills, president of the Council of Neighborhoods.
Council Majority Leader Sonya Jelks told the Record-Journal the vote was postponed to allow for additional conversations with city officials and police department leadership. Jelks feels the discussions are needed before the council votes on the proposal.
Jelks said she personally “sought those discussions on what it would mean to implement a civilian review board.” She said previous discussions made it clear additional conversations were needed to explain the value of a civilian review board for residents and police.
“I’m very appreciative that I have the indulgence from the council body to allow those conversations to take place. I’m not anticipating that we will not vote on the matter. I’m asking to continue those conversations with leadership in the city,” Jelks said.
She added whatever the outcome of the council’s eventual vote, it’s goal, in her view, is to protect and serve both residents and the city’s police force.
“A postponement doesn’t speak to lack of work or effort on the part of the Use of Force Committee. They did absolutely amazing volunteer work,” Jelks said, adding the council has a responsibility to consider the totality behind the committee’s recommendations.
Dan Brunet, the council’s minority party leader, said he thought the proposal would be voted on during the Sept. 20 meeting. Brunet said it was abruptly taken off the agenda as an action item.
“Certainly after six months of discussion, I’m not sure what more needs to be discussed,” Brunet said.
Cardona told the Record-Journal he stands behind the work completed by the Use of Force Committee. He directed questions regarding the postponed vote to Jelks.
Sharlene Kerelejza, who sat on the Use of Force Committee, also defended the work of the committee. She is disappointed the recommendation hadn’t yet been voted on yet.
“I believe in the work of the committee and the outcome. The push nationally for police accountability is not going to change,” Sharlene Kerelejza said.
Wills, who also sat on the Use of Force Committee, urged that when the council does vote, its members take a look at the statistics and data around use-of-force complaints received by the Meriden police department. Wills said the number of complaints against the Meriden police over the past 10 years involved less than 0.01% of the calls police responded to during that time frame.
“Based on the data and stats, it shows that there is no issue going on in the Meriden Police Department, which is a good thing for us,” Wills said.