MERIDEN — Police Chief Roberto Rosado last week expressed skepticism over whether a survey, which the City Council’s Use of Force Committee is overseeing to gather community input on the relationship between the public and local law enforcement, can be considered unbiased.
Rosado aired his comments about that ongoing community survey, the potential formation of a civilian review board to review allegations of police misconduct and about the overall state of policing, during a call-in conversation Wednesday night on local Republican Joseph Vollano’s podcast “Straight Talk w/ Joe Vollano”, which had aired on Facebook.
During the dialogue Rosado questioned how the survey was being distributed and how the data was being collected. The “Community Voice Survey: Public Safety and Law Enforcement” will remain open until this Friday, June 18 and can be accessed through the city website or directly by clicking https://tinyurl.com/2nw4dh4u.
The survey is available in English and Spanish.
Use of Force Committee members expect to report its results by June 28.
“The people that created this are actually putting it out and collecting this data — that’s a concern,” Rosado said, adding he believes the tasks of distributing the survey and collecting responses should be done by another organization with no connection to the Use of Force Committee.
“It’s the double blind standard. It should be developed by one group, given to another group — that way there are no biases,” Rosado said.
Rosado, when reached by a reporter on Monday, reiterated those comments. He maintained the survey results should be gathered by a party with “no bearing whatsoever on what the results are.”
“That’s the fairest way to do it,” Rosado said, adding, “You’re going to get a more fair response.”
Rosado told the Record-Journal he wants to ensure the information gathered is “fair to all parties involved.”‘Tough environment’
During his on-air conversation with Vollano, Rosado referenced the ongoing public scrutiny officers now face. “It’s a tough environment to be a police officer,” he said.
That scrutiny had intensified following the death of George Floyd, an unarmed Black man, at the hands of police in Minneapolis, Minnesota, in May 2020. That death, and similar cases in Kentucky and Georgia, spurred new police accountability measures in Connecticut and other states in the months that followed. In Meriden, the local conversation led to the establishment of the Use of Force Committee to determine whether civilian oversight of the city’s police force is necessary.
Rosado, in his conversation with Vollano, described difficulties recruiting new officers and retaining existing officers.
“We invested a lot of time and money in these officers. To let them retire while still have a lot in the tank is a disservice to Meriden,” Rosado said.
“Internally, it’s a great environment,” he said. “The only negative is our backs are against the wall and the politics of the state and country affect our job.”
The police chief spoke about policing in general — not Meriden specifically — when he said: “You’re seeing a lot of people leave this profession or not wanting to come into this profession.”
City Council Deputy Mayor Michael Cardona, a Democrat who chairs the Use of Force Committee, disputed Rosado’s contention that the survey is biased.
“My issue with that is it’s an electronic survey. We’re not interviewing anybody,” Cardona said, saying the concept of double blind does not apply. “”I would call into question this idea that there’s a bias. Because there’s nobody conducting the survey — there’s no bias.”
Cardona weeks before made a similar appearance on the podcast, as did Republican Councilor, and minority party leader, Dan Brunet.
Cardona said there was ample time, when the survey questions were developed for Use of Force Committee members, who include Meriden Police Captain John Mennone, to provide feedback on those questions.
“I didn’t hear any feedback,” Cardona said.
Use of Force Committee member Sharlene Kerelejza also defended the survey, noting its questions were modeled on surveys administered by the Seattle Police Department and by the U.S. Department of Justice.
Furthermore, Kerelejza said, the committee couldn’t outsource the distribution of its survey. “We were asked to do it without incurring costs, using the resources we have to the best of our ability. And I think we did well considering that,” she said.‘Community voice’
Kerelejza said she recommends “that we wait until the survey closes and we see what the results are before we make efforts to dismiss it.”
She added, “I think that my overarching concern is we’re giving the tool itself a really hard time, when truly it is an effort to solicit community voice. And so by dismissing it before we hear community voice, it suggests that folks don’t want to hear what it has to say and the results that it yields.
“I’m remaining hopeful that however imperfect this tool is, it’s an opportunity to actually listen,” Kerelejza said.
Cardona stressed that if the city moves forward with civilian oversight of its police department it in no way reflects anti-police sentiment.
“My response, this meme of police oversight being anti police, is something that’s a fallacy. It’s just not true,” Cardona said.
Cardona cited other cities and towns with police commissions endowed with significantly more authority than a civilian review board in Meriden would have, if established. He further noted that many towns are led by boards and councils whose members are majority conservative.
“If there was a connection between anti-police sentiment and civilian oversight, I would imagine these Republican controlled municipalities would immediately dismantle (those commissions),” Cardona said.
Cardona further disputed the contention that the local police department is seeing turnover based on new police accountability measures. Many officers have left the local police department to take positions in municipalities with more generous pensions, he said.
“What I’ve heard historically, we’ve had a tough time retaining officers because of changes we made in pensions,” Cardona said. “This happened years ago.”