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New London council showing its anti-police bias

A person would have to be living in a bubble not to see what’s been happening in policing and calls for reform in the United States. Right here in New London there have been marches, protests and an online petition to defund the police department’s budget.

Mayor Michael Passero created a review board to make recommendations on the efficacy of the Police Department and Police Community Relations Committee (PCRC) in response to public outcry. The City Council repealed the police department’s 80-member staffing ordinance and voters subsequently petitioned against that decision.

Now six PCRC members have resigned, raising accusations of cyberbullying by the police union on its website. This leaves the committee below the minimum number of members needed to conduct business.

The PCRC is charged with two tasks — to foster relationships between police and the community, and to review investigations of civilian complaints against police officers and employees. The dual roles require wearing two very different hats. In one, a committee member must be a champion for the department and help build bridges important to community policing. In the other, review role, they must be neutral and consider only the documents presented, leaving their politics on policing at the door.

One might argue that the PCRC model is outdated, and the two roles should be separated. With public outcry for more oversight and accountability, a case may also be made for a commission that has more teeth than the current committee. The mayor’s Public Safety Policy Review Committee made exactly those recommendations in its report released in January.

Councilor Alma D. Nartatez, in charge of committee appointments, stated that no appointments would be made to the PCRC until the report was received from the mayor’s review committee. In January, after receipt of the report, the PCRC co-signed a letter to the council requesting that vacancies be filled. The request was denied, with Nartatez stating that no vacancies would be filled until the council decided which, if any, changes it would make to the PCRC. Even this week, in the face of six PCRC resignations that render the committee unable to function, the council refuses to act.

In January that council committee stance was unsettling. At this point, it’s unacceptable.

This group of councilors continues to show their anti-police bias. Council President Efrain Dominguez Jr.’s opening remarks about staffing, were, “We have had issues in the department for years” before he went on a diatribe of his perceived issues with New London Police Department.

Councilor Curtis K. Goodwin stated, “We do have some good police officers,” implying that NLPD’s ranks leave something to be desired.

Councilor James Burke repeatedly asks the finance director how monies may be moved from the police budget to other departments.

The 5-2 vote to relieve NLPD of its armored vehicle, its repeal of the staffing ordinance, and its refusal to fill vacancies on the PCRC constitute a long line of jabs at NLPD — except this time it’s had the opposite of the intended effect.

Like it or not, the PCRC is the only avenue for individuals who feel they’ve been wronged by the police. By refusing to fill vacancies, crippling the committee, the council robs complainants of their right to be heard. Can you still file a complaint against a police officer? And will it be investigated? Absolutely. But without the PCRC, it will sit on a captain’s desk, indefinitely and with no resolution.

The council says it won’t fill vacancies until it decides the fate of the PCRC, but how much longer should New London wait? The PCRC as it exists in New London isn’t perfect, but the council cannot simultaneously claim to want reform in policing while doing absolutely nothing to attain it. Regardless of stance on policing, everyone will agree that when it comes to complaints against officers, investigation and resolution are paramount. Until Councilor Nartatez lifts the ban on filling PCRC posts, there will be no resolution.

By refusing to fill vacancies to the PCRC, the council has sent a message that not only do our police officers not matter, but neither do we, the citizens, even in the face of serious complaints. That is something that should make everyone angry.

The City Council should resume appointments to the PCRC so that it can resume business.

Unfortunately, in their race to wokeness, it seems our councilors have stumbled.

Kat Goulart is the chair of the Police Community Relations Committee.

 

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