Background checks ongoing for inaugural Meriden police review board



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MERIDEN — Mayor Kevin Scarpati anticipates submitting the names of the new Police Civilian Review Board members to the City Council by the next council meeting in August.

The city is in the process of receiving the results of federal background checks for candidates shortlisted as finalists for the board. The city now awaits background check results for three or four candidates, Scarpati said. Overall, some 15 candidates were deemed finalists for a board that will ultimately be comprised of nine members.  

Scarpati told the council the background checks, conducted by the FBI, are “taking longer than we thought.”

“… I very much anticipate a slate of names coming forward at the next council meeting,” the mayor said. 

The council voted to establish the review board last November — narrowly overriding Scarpati’s veto in order to do so. The vote came after several council meetings during which the topic was hotly debated. Opponents included council Republicans, law enforcement leaders and members, and several community leaders — many of whom vociferously spoke out during council meetings last fall.

The council’s discussions followed the recommendations of another group, the Use of Force Study Committee, which was established in 2020. That committee was one of a series of local and statewide actions after the death of George Floyd, an unarmed Black man, who was killed by police in Minneapolis, Minnesota. 

Unlike traditional police commissions in other municipalities, Meriden’s Civilian Review Board’s scope of authority is advisory and limited to reviews related to use of force. Those reviews would look at investigations completed by the police department’s Internal Affairs Division into citizens’ complaints of police use of force to determine the investigations’ “thoroughness, completeness, accuracy and objectivity,” according to the board’s charge. Copies of the board’s reviews would be sent to the council’s public safety committee, the police chief and the city manager’s office. 

Even with the limited authority, the selection process for the new review board is considerably more rigorous than other city boards and commissions. Some 30 prospective candidates were interviewed by a panel that included Scarpati, Council Deputy Mayor Michael Cardona and Council Deputy Minority Leader Bob Williams Jr. 

Once background checks are complete and the final list of nine members is submitted to the council for approval, board members must still complete 40 hours of training before the board can carry out its charge. That training will be done by the Meriden Police Department and other agencies. 

Scarpati described the process for selecting finalists as “thorough.” He said the questions asked during interviews were vetted by Police Chief Roberto Rosado and City Manager Timothy Coon. 

Scarpati’s office scheduled the interviews, which were conducted on weeknights and weekends throughout the spring. After that, the shortlist of candidates had to be fingerprinted for their background checks. 

“It’s undoubtedly very thorough — I think longer than anyone has anticipated,” Scarpati said. “I don’t think it’s anyone’s fault. Hopefully it’s going to be a process proven to be worthwhile.”

Cardona similarly described the appointment process — with the interviews, questionnaires and background checks — as unlike those for any other city board or commission. 

Cardona said the candidates who were shortlisted “definitely meet the eligibility requirements” that the council had established. 

The council determined the board’s membership would be selected based on several criteria. Five members will be at-large members, representing the entire city, and four will represent each of the city’s current council areas. The at-large members would be selected based on whether they fit criteria, including whether or not they work in the legal profession, are members of religious clergy, are local business professionals or are a justice-impacted person. 

Members of the board cannot have serious felony convictions on their records. Those who have been convicted of less serious offenses must be no fewer than five years removed from those convictions. 

Cardona sought to clear up what he described as public misconceptions about the board’s scope of review. 

“It’s very limited currently to use-of-force complaints submitted to the department,” Cardona said, adding that the board’s scope could be expanded in the future. 

Meriden Police Sgt. Michael Boothroyd, a department spokesman, declined to comment on behalf of the department, deferring instead to Scarpati. 

The board won’t likely be ready to begin discharging its current duties until sometime in the fall. How frequently the board meets will be based on the number of use-of-force complaints the police department receives. The inaugural group of review board members will be appointed to either one-, two- or three-year terms. That will ensure that future terms on the board are served as staggered three-year terms. 

Reporter Michael Gagne can be reached at mgagne@record-journal.com.



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