MERIDEN — The City Council is expected to vote Monday on a proposed ordinance revision to establish a civilian board to review allegations of police misconduct, including incidents where force is used.
The council’s Public Safety Committee on Wednesday night held remote public hearings via videoconference to get input on the civilian review board change and another proposed ordinance revision on permits for bazaars and raffles.
Few residents testified regarding the civilian review board proposal. Only one resident submitted testimony regarding the bazaars and raffles proposal, which would bring local rules in line with state law.
Deputy Mayor Michael Cardona, who chairs the public safety committee and had chaired the committee that
recommended the review board’s establishment — the Use of Force Committee — shared findings at the outset of the hearing that he said show broad bipartisan support for civilian oversight of police.
Cardona said he conducted a review of the official websites of local municipalities across Connecticut to determine how many currently have civilian police oversight commissions.
Cardona said he identified 49 municipalities with such boards — 25 are led by Republicans and 24 by Democrats. In the area, municipalities with existing police commissions include Southington, Berlin and North Haven, all three of which are Republican-led.
“To me this demonstrates that a belief in civilian oversight separate from the council, alders or selectmen appears to have bipartisan support with those that have implemented these oversight bodies,” Cardona said.
Cardona prefaced his remark with an overview of the Use of Force Committee’s work, which he said was spread over seven months. He noted the discussion began well before the committee’s formation, with the council’s unanimous passage of a resolution regarding racial equity on July 20, 2020.
Police officials were among those who had participated in the discussions.
Public comments on the proposal were mixed.
Residents Colleen Cyr and David Rauch stated their support for a civilian review board in written comments.
Rauch wrote that “independent validation of good performance is always desirable.” He wrote further that a civilian-led review board would ensure misconduct complaints are reviewed through a fair and peaceful investigation and resolution.
Ray Ouellet, a 25-year veteran of the police force, Board of Education member and Republican at-large candidate for City Council, offered a different view.
Ouellet, who emailed the council, said at no point during the time the Use of Force Committee had deliberated on the issue had anyone from the council reached out to the police patrol division to request a ride-along or other interaction with officers.
“Stop the disconnect between the police department and the council. This is real life,” Ouellet wrote. Regarding the formation of a review board, he added succinctly: “This town does not need it.”
Ouellet did not mention that Meriden Police Captain John Mennone, a 20-year veteran of the department and former lieutenant in charge of internal affairs, served as a member of the Use of Force Committee.