New leader named to panel studying more civilian oversight of Meriden PD

New leader named to panel studying more civilian oversight of Meriden PD

MERIDEN — A committee working to determine how to implement a civilian review board of police use of force incidents has a new chairman.

The City Council Use of Force Review Committee agreed unanimously to name Deputy Mayor Michael Cardona, who also serves as a city councilor, to its chairmanship to replace fellow council member Nicole Tomassetti. She resigned last week citing demands of her full-time job as a state government lobbyist.

A response to local and national Black Lives Matter protests over the wrongful death of a Black Minneapolis man, George Floyd, at the hands of Minneapolis police last summer, the committee's goal is to see how another committee could review incidents where Meriden police use deadly force. 

Mayor Kevin Scarpati and city Corporation Counsel Michael Quinn told the committee during its first meeting last month that it didn't necessarily have to create a civilian review board if it felt one was not needed. Of the 11 use of force complaints filed against city cops since 2018, only one complaint, in 2019, was found to be justified. The rest were dropped or deemed unjustified.

That's one justified complaint against a city police department that annually handles about 2,100 arrests, 23,000 calls for service and 44,400 self-initiated tasks, including motor vehicle stops, building checks and special patrols, according to a report police wrote for the council.

In his first statement as chairman, Cardona signaled that the board would proceed with its work despite the words of Scarpati and Quinn.

"I appreciate the vote of confidence there from you and all the members of this committee and I look forward to committing ourselves to the goal of the resolution that was given to us by the council," Cardona said during a committee meeting on Monday night.

The resolution states, "The City Council and Mayor shall appoint a study committee to review and propose standards for a commission of police accountability for use of force. The committee would define the purpose and scope of the authority and propose a recommendation for Council in six months."

Under the City Charter, the police chief answers to the City Council on matters of budgeting and administration, while the civilian city manager and the city’s personnel department assist the chief in handling personnel issues.

The Public Safety Committee is the council’s direct delegate to all city emergency services.

The board began its work by reviewing several kinds of civilian review boards, but took no action.

City attorneys are awaiting opinions from outside attorneys as to whether state law and the Meriden charter allow a civilian review board. They hope to have the opinions by the end of the week.

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