Meriden’s newly launched Civilian Police Review Board held its first meeting late last month. As the panel moves forward, all parties involved will need to keep open minds and make a good faith effort in order for the process to be effective and fair.
The City Council formed the board in late 2021 on the recommendation of a year-long study by a separate panel, called the Use of Force Study Committee, as detailed in a Record-Journal story by reporter Michael Gagne. The Use of Force Study Committee was established in 2020 after the death of George Floyd, an unarmed Black man killed by police in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
Board members will get 40 hours of training and keep their mission confined to a limited scope. Unlike a traditional police commission, the board’s scope of authority is advisory and members will review incidents to determine the “thoroughness, completeness, accuracy and objectivity” of the internal review, according to the board’s charge. The board also will make recommendations to the City Council regarding policy and related topics.
Not surprisingly, the formation of the board has faced objections, concerns and controversy. As Mayor Kevin Scarpati put it, the board’s establishment “was hotly contested.”
Gagne noted that the review board was only established after the council narrowly overrode a mayoral veto.
That controversy should be seen as a positive path to take when it comes to developing a panel tasked with such a sensitive job — one that potentially could have far-reaching impact on individuals, the community at large and the police department.
Now that the board is set up, we trust that it will be given a chance to show its ability to perform, within the set parameters, and to be a positive force.
As reported by Gagne, at the first meeting, Deputy Mayor Michael Cardona said the board’s responsibilities must be kept manageable, with a “slow and incremental” approach. Any expansion of responsibilities would go to City Council for consideration.
Concerns brought up by police Chief Roberto Rosado provide a good perspective on use of force incidents and also on police work in general. His words must be kept foremost in mind as the board goes about its work.
Rosado said the police department receives a “a very low number” of complaints annually compared to approximately 48,000 service requests.
That very low number is one to two use-of-force complaints per year.
“It’s important to do the right thing here,” Rosado said, adding that Meriden police personnel “put their lives on the line. They do a lot of great things.”
He also spoke about morale and the declining numbers of law enforcement personnel throughout the state. Rosado urged board members to be free of agendas and stated his confidence in the department’s established internal affairs procedures.
As Gagne reported, how often and when the review board meets will depend on whether it is referred any use-of-force complaints from the police department. Officials said they hope the number of referred complaints is zero.
This board and any work it may do should not be about — nor be construed as — not trusting the police. We hope the review board’s work engenders goodwill and furthers transparency.