Meriden Use of Force Committee almost finished with its work

MERIDEN — A City Council committee charged with deciding whether the city should have civilians review police use-of-force complaints hinted during a meeting this week that it favors a review board.

A series of 5 to 3 votes during the virtual meeting Monday night showed that the Use of Force Review Committee has enough will to recommend that the City Council establish a civilian review board. 

The votes fine-tuned and finalized a draft ordinance that would establish the legal and procedural framework for a review board, but the committee's recommendation won't be voted on until the committee meets July 7 to possibly approve a final report being drafted, said City Councilor Michael Cardona, the committee's chairman.

"I would think we are pretty close to being done," Cardona said Tuesday.

After that, the full City Council would have to vote on the recommendation. 

Committee members Cardona, Natacha Kerelejza, Sharlene Kerelejza, Ronald Weller and Kim Fisher voted in favor of the draft ordinance. Meriden police Capt. John Mennone, Meriden Council of Neighborhoods leader Holly Wills and City Councilor Bob Williams Jr. opposed.

Acting amid the national furor caused by the police brutality that led to the death of Minneapolis resident George Floyd last year, the council charged the Use of Force Review Committee with investigating whether Meriden needs a civilian review panel. Since then, councilors and some committee members have expressed skepticism as to whether Meriden needs a review board while also expressing confidence in Police Chief Roberto Rosado.

Community survey

A survey of 535 Meriden residents that was distributed from May 21 to June 18 showed that residents support more civilian review of police use of force, yet it also showed that confidence in existing police management is high.

According to the survey, 427 respondents, or 79% of those surveyed, believe that city police officers work together with community members to solve local problems to a “great extent” or “somewhat.” Another 79 said that police work with the community "a little" and 18 said "not at all."

When asked if they had trust in city police, 83.4% said they had a “great deal” or “some” trust and 10% responded they had “very little” or “no trust.” Just under half, 48.4%, said there should be some independent civilian committee to review complaints against police, and 37.2% opposed a review board. Another 13.6% were unsure, according to the survey results.

When asked whether Meriden police treat people of all races and ethnicities equally, 281 said “yes” — that's 52.5% of respondents — and 75 said “no.” A total of 176, or 32.9%, were unsure. When asked where they would go if they had a concern about police, 54.6% said they would approach city officials, while 44.7% said they would go to police leaders.

More than half, about 58.5%, said they wanted more transparency and openness from police.

Some committee members said they would have preferred a larger pool of respondents.

nsambides@record-journal.com203-317-2279Twitter: @JrSambides

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