Plan Emerges For Civilian Review Of Police

Eino Sierpe PhotoThree years after voters directed them to, city alders have drawn up a plan for a civilian review board to monitor allegations of police misconduct.

The Board of Alders Monday night received a proposed ordinance establishing the board. The ordinance will now receive a hearing and come up for a vote before a joint Legislation/Public Safety Committee.

The ordinance would direct the city’s ten community management teams to propose candidates to the mayor to serve two-year terms on the board, which would review all civilian complaints submitted to the police department’s internal affairs division, obtain written IA reports before they go to the police chief for approval, and hear appeals from civilian complainants within 90 days of the completion of IA probe,. (Half of the first 10 neighborhood appointees would serve an initial three-year term.) The Board of Alders will select an additional three members of the board.

The proposal comes after years of criticism in the community that the police department can’t be trusted to police itself. Voters approved the creation of the board in a 2013 charter revision referendum.

It has taken the alders since then to craft the proposal.

The city used to have a civilian review board (CRB), but it lacked teeth and faded away. Proponents of the 2013 referendum said the city needed a more “independent” and “powerful” version.

Paul Bass Photos

The new version won’t have subpoena powers; the two key alders working on the proposal, Quinnipiac Meadows’ Gerald Antunes and East Rock’s Jessica Holmes, said they concluded that state law wouldn’t allow it. The proposed new CRB would largely have direct contact with IA cops and review the unit’s policies.

Holmes said the new version improves on the old by putting the CRB in the loop with internal affairs as soon as complaints get filed; by opening the 60-day window for prompt reviews of an IA finding with which it disagrees; by including Yale cops in its scope; by preventing a mayor from dissolving it; and by adding authority to order a chief to reopen an IA investigation found wanting. (Scroll to the bottom of this story to read the proposed ordinance’s full text.)

“This is a work in progress,” Holmes said of the proposed ordinance. She urged people to participate in a scheduled April 5 public hearing on it.

The board would operate under the aegis of the Office of the Corporation Counsel, with staffing and equipment “no less than that of similar sized” city department, the proposed ordinance states.

Alder Antunes, a retired 29-year veteran of the police department, said the civilian review board can help unearth witnesses or evidence the department missed. “They may find other things that internal affairs doesn’t. It will be a hope to both side,” Antunes said. “Community-based policing is not going to end at making friends with the community and hoping to get information from them and serving them. It’s also having the community being able to look at the negatives of the police department. The community has to feel comfortable that it is investigated to the fullest.”

Interim Police Chief Anthony Campbell (pictured above at a U.S. Attorney’s Office press Tuesday) said he supports “100 percent” the creation of the new version of CRB. When he ran IA, he said, the CRB brought important information to the unit’s attention. If “done right,” he said, a CRB builds public confidence in the criminal justice system by allowing independent review of police work.

“Whereas” x 30


Debates over civilian review, like those over police misconduct in general, touch a sensitive public nerve, sparking passionate opposing views from cops and cop critics — both of which are reflected in a string of 30 “whereas” clauses contained in the proposed ordinance.

In crafting the proposal, alders made sure to include lots of clauses expressing sympathy for cops and the high-stress job they perform. Like this “whereas”: “There is no other department of the city government from which so much is exacted and where the conduct of employees is so much scrutinized that upon the slightest mistake made by one of them the whole police force is more or less subject to criticism.” And this one: “When a mistake is made by any member of the police force, the entire police department is open to criticism, and oftentimes the entire force is stigmatized on account of the acts of an individual member.”

“The vast majority of New Haven’s officers do a great job in a difficult profession,” states another “whereas.” To which the subsequent “whereas” clauses add: “Sometimes officers may violate regulations, statutes or laws; and ... in those cases, the public has the right to file a complaint, to have that complaint investigated, to review the investigation to assure that the investigation was complete and thorough; and [t]he appropriate vehicle to do this is the Civilian Review Board.”

And the “whereas” section observes that a succession of police chiefs (“mostly not from New Haven”) have moved New Haven away from “community policing” despite the public’s preference for it.

Following is the full text of the proposed ordinance:


WHEREAS:  A police officer is expected to patrol the streets and to be found at their post of duty; to care for the lives and property of citizens while they sleep; to be present to preserve peace at large gatherings, political meetings, entertainments, and such like; to be an escort for processions, for lost children, the sick, injured or disabled; to be on hand to protect the people; to look after the violation of the city ordinances; and to perform an infinite range of other work; and

WHEREAS: There is no other department of the city government from which so much is exacted and where the conduct of employees is so much scrutinized that
upon the slightest mistake made by one of them the whole police force is more or less subject to criticism; and

WHEREAS: When a mistake is made by any member of the police force, the entire police department is open to criticism, and oftentimes the entire force is stigmatized on account of the acts of an individual member; and

WHEREAS: Police work is of great importance and much depends upon an officer’s sagacity and diligence in order to be successful; and

WHEREAS: Many important changes have taken place in the organization of the police department, all calculated to bring the force up to a high standard of efficiency, since the abolishment of the old Watch system in 1861, including, but not limited to, the adoption of a police uniform; the Gamewell system of a police telephone and signal service, the patrol wagon and the ambulance service; and

WHEREAS: Policing has adjusted, and continues to adjust, to the city’s evolution as a result of industrialization, immigration, and urbanization; and

WHEREAS:  Neighborhoods have been organized into policing precincts where individual officers determine how an area shall be policed; and

WHEREAS:  New Haven’s police force continues to evolve in response to changes in policing procedure and philosophy, transportation, communications technologies in order to respond to issues throughout the city; and

WHEREAS: In the mid-twentieth century, the police academy at 710 Sherman Parkway was created to centralize training officers; and

WHEREAS: Nationwide in the sixties, Supreme Court decisions led to stricter policing protocols; and

WHEREAS: In 1973, the City built the Department of Police Service building located on Union Avenue in the Church Street Redevelopment Area; and

WHEREAS: The policing strategy of the time was the traditional rapid response to emergency calls, targeted law enforcement in high crime areas, and making arrests;

WHEREAS: Roughly two decades later, a community policing philosophy was instituted in the City of New Haven, which echoed the community service roots of the night watch, constables, and the precinct-based walking beats of the initial New Haven Police Department; and

WHEREAS: The city was divided into policing districts to facilitate neighborhood patrols, get officers familiar with their beats and form block watch management teams that included officers; and

WHEREAS:  Community policing included sensitivity training devoted to earning the community’s trust, and developing sources from which to effectively investigate complaints; and

WHEREAS:  Different chiefs of police, mostly not from the rank and file of the New Haven Police Department, subsequently moved away from prioritizing community policing by employing other targeted activity policing methods; and

WHEREAS: The public preferred the community policing style of policing and in response the New Haven Police Department emphasized walking beats, public events, interacting with community groups, and using substations for Management Team Meetings and community events; and

WHEREAS: Despite the progress made in recent years to return community policing to the Elm City there have been complaints about police misconduct; and

WHEREAS: These complaints resulted in requests for body cameras and a civilian review board; and

WHEREAS: The vast majority of New Haven’s officers do a great job in a difficult profession; and

WHEREAS: Sometimes officers may violate regulations, statutes or laws; and

WHEREAS: In those cases, the public has the right to file a complaint, to have that complaint investigated, to review the investigation to assure that the investigation was complete and thorough; and

WHEREAS: The appropriate vehicle to do this is the Civilian Review Board; and

WHEREAS: In the 2013 Charter Revision, the public voted to institute a Civilian Review Board; and

WHEREAS:  With this new addition, New Haven can continue to boast of as trustworthy and efficient corps of peace officers as are to be found anywhere; and

WHEREAS, the City of New Haven and its residents depend for their peace and security upon the services of a professional municipal police department employed by the City of New Haven, and a police department authorized to act with the powers of a municipal police department employed by Yale University; and

WHEREAS, it is the unique power and privilege of police officers acting within the scope and course of their employment in these departments to use force, even deadly force, in making arrests; and

WHEREAS, the powers and duties of local police officers to interfere with, to restrict, and to abridge the liberty of citizens, guests and visitors to the City of New Haven, by way of arrests, searches, investigative stops, interrogations, and other means, are extensive, and are securely anchored in state and federal law; and

WHEREAS, the state and federal courts have shown an increasing reluctance to review the day-to-day exercise of police powers through the development of legal doctrines such as qualified immunity, limitations on supervisory liability, and other means that effectively deprive jurors and ordinary citizens from exercising effective oversight over police officers in their communities; and

WHEREAS, public confidence in law enforcement is undermined by secret, non-transparent and unaccountable police use of force and exercise of police powers generally, and police departments generally conduct internal reviews of civilian complaints in secret proceedings:


The City of New Haven hereby enacts a Civilian Complaint Review Board, for the sole and exclusive purpose of assuring public confidence in the use of police powers in the City of New Haven by means of providing a mechanism for fair, independent, complete and transparent review of civilian complaints of alleged police misconduct.

Section 1. Civilian Review Board.

• The Civilian Review Board has the authority to monitor and to review civilian complaints of police misconduct by police officers empowered to act with municipal police powers in the City of New Haven.

• The office and the professional staff that provides assistance to the Civilian Review Board shall be a permanent part of, and permanently located in, the Office of the Corporation Counsel.

• The Office of the Civilian Review Board shall be funded permanently by annual allotments for personnel, services, equipment, supplies, and facilities in an amount no less than that of similarly sized existing departments, offices, and agencies of the city.

• The Office of the Civilian Review Board may not be eliminated by any action of any part of the executive branch city government

Section 2. Objectives.

The Civilian Review Board’s function is to create a public, transparent and impartial means by which to review and monitor any complaint of police misconduct against a police officer employed by a police department empowered to act with municipal police powers in the City of New Haven.

Section 3. Membership.

• The Civilian Review Board shall consist of an odd number of members and shall, at a minimum, consist of members selected as follows: one member from each of the Police Districts in the City of New Haven, and, at least, three at-large members selected by the Board of Alders.

• All members of the Board shall be residents and electors of the City of New Haven.

• No member of the Civilian Review Board shall be a sworn officer of any police department or law enforcement entity.

• No elected official shall be a member of the Civilian Review Board

Section 4. Appointment.

• The Mayor shall nominate all members of the Civilian Review Board except the at-large members, who shall be nominated by the Board of Alders.

• All nominees shall be confirmed by a majority vote of the Board of Alders.

• Mayoral nominees shall be selected from among the names recommended by each Community Management Team which shall make said recommendation at a mandatory biennial meeting where it elects officers. Said recommendation shall be made from among the names submitted to each Management Team by community engagement organizations and similar neighborhood-based organizations such as Neighborhood Associations and Block Watches in each respective policing district.

• The Board of Alders shall maintain a list of community engagement organizations or similar neighborhood-based organizations who are interested in offering names of prospective Board members.

• If there is no recommendation to the Mayor from a Management Team or a Police District within ninety (90) days of a vacancy the Board of Alders in consultation with the Mayor will nominate an eligible resident elector to fill that vacancy.

Section 5. Term.

Except for the initial term of the representatives for the odd number policing districts which shall be three (3) years the term of office for each member shall be two (2) years.  The terms shall be staggered as follows: initial appointments to odd-numbered police districts shall be for a period of three years only, with all other and all subsequent appointments to be of two years duration. 

Section 6. Duties.

The Civilian Review Board shall have the following authority, and such other authority as may be set forth by ordinance:

• To examine civilian complaints of alleged police misconduct against any police officer acting in the City of New Haven pursuant to municipal police powers, and to monitor and review the processing of Internal Affairs complaints by any police department acting within the City of New Haven pursuant to municipal police powers;

• To receive a copy of any civilian complaint of alleged police misconduct filed against any police officer acting in the City of New Haven pursuant to municipal police powers within 48 hours of the filing of said complaint;

• To receive, in writing, a copy of any findings of fact and/or recommended disposition of a complaint at the same time it is forwarded to Internal Affairs and before it is submitted for final action to the relevant chief of police, and to interview the officer(s) preparing such proposed findings of fact and/or recommended disposition;

• To hear appeals from any civilian complainant within ninety (90) days of the completion of an internal affairs investigation by any police department acting within the City of New Haven pursuant to municipal police powers;

• To require any police department acting within the City of New Haven pursuant to municipal police powers to investigate civilian complaints of alleged police misconduct in the event no investigation has been commenced after an initial complaint;

• To require any police department acting within the City of New Haven pursuant to municipal police powers to re-open any closed investigation and to continue an investigation if, in the judgment of the Civilian Review Board, an initial investigation was incomplete, unfair or otherwise unresolved;

• To recommend revisions to policies, the manner of processing civilian complaints, training protocols, and/or provisions of general orders or departmental standards, to any police department acting within the City of New Haven pursuant to municipal police powers;

• To develop policies and procedures for the filing and processing of civilian complaints to the Civilian Review Board, for the operations of said Board, and for the training of members of said Board and the community-based agencies and organizations designated by said Board;

• To develop of a Memorandum of Understanding with the Yale University Police Department designed to effectuate the goal of assuring transparent civilian review of any civilian complaint of alleged police misconduct by an officer employed by a police department acting within the City of New Haven pursuant to municipal police powers.

Section 7. Staff.

The Civilian Review Board shall have the authority to hire, with the approval of the Board of Alders, such staff as is necessary to perform the duties herein described, and to perform such other tasks as the board may, in its discretion, require.

Section 8. - Applicability of other laws.
Nothing in this article shall exempt any person from applicable provisions of any other laws of the city, state, federal or other appropriate jurisdiction.

Sec. 9 - Confidentiality of records.
The provisions of this chapter are intended to preserve and enhance the security of persons and property within the city. Where public release of certain information may put someone in jeopardy it shall be the intent of the Civilian Review Board to preserve the confidentiality where permitted by law.

Section 10 - Severability.
The provisions of this chapter are declared to be separate and severable. The invalidity of any clause, sentence, paragraph, subdivision, section or portion thereof, or the invalidity of the application of any portion of this chapter to any person or circumstances, shall not affect the validity of the remainder of this chapter, or the validity of its application to other persons or circumstances.

Sec. 11. - Effective date.
The ordinance from which this article derives shall become effective upon passage.

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posted by: jdossgollin on March 21, 2017  6:12pm

The biggest change I would have liked to seen, maybe one for the future, is to lengthen the terms from 2 to perhaps 6 years. They should be longer, and staggered (like Senate). While civilian oversight is important, it’s also important that the board be insulated from short-term politics.

posted by: T-ski1417 on March 21, 2017  6:19pm

How is this going to be funded and if they are allowed to staff as needed who hires the support staff and what is the rate of pay? I’m not aware of the process but will they be required to pass a background check prior to appointment and what is the process if a member of this board is found to be guilty of misconduct and who will investigate them.

I curious to see how the Yale And SCSU policewill handle this since one is a private police department and the other a state agency being that it says any department acting within the city. My hope is that they tell the city to go pound sand.

posted by: alphabravocharlie on March 21, 2017  8:42pm

Great job! You’ve created a document which says nothing and a board which has no power or effect. A CRB with subpoena power already exists. It’s called the Board of Police Commissioners.

posted by: JohnDVelleca on March 21, 2017  8:45pm

This is not the answer that anyone is looking for simply because it will not work.  The problem the NHPD faces was pretty well laid out in the previous article.  The NHPD used to have a CRB, but it wasn’t effective for one reason and one reason alone; it didn’t have subpoena powers.  That’s the ONLY way for the CRB to be effective.  Everything else you read is political lip service.  “...the civilian review board can help unearth witnesses or evidence the department missed. “They may find other things that internal affairs doesn’t.”  Umm, no they won’t because they can’t compel testimony.  Furthermore, such a statement infers that members of the public at large selected from management teams are more adept at investigations than the members of the Internal Affairs Unit, but they’re not.  I can tell you from first hand experience they’re not because I personally worked with the investigators at the NHPD and they’re adept at their profession.  They don’t miss much I can assure you.  A CRB with full power would require new legislation on the state level, which is an improbability because that type of legislation would never withstand the pro-police lobby.  But let’s say for argument sake the CRB somehow was able to obtain full authority.  The real hurdle here is with labor relations because the police union would never agree to accepting a fully authorized CRB without major concessions from the city like raises, pension and medical benefit enhancements.  If anybody is out there thinking that the union can be circumvented here, you’re wrong.  Furthermore, the NHPD already has a CRB, we call it the Board of Police Commissioners.  Another body doing the same thing is redundant and will serve only to further muddy the waters.  How about everybody puts their big boy/girl pants on and does their job?  If the cop is wrong discipline them, if they’re not then don’t.  But for God’s sake, make a decision and stand by it.  Stop the BS already…

posted by: Hill Resident on March 21, 2017  10:16pm

The ONLY real difference between this & the old CRB is WHEREAS X30’. Interim Chief Campbell admits that when he worked with Internal Affairs the CRB brought important information to the unit’s attention, & I am certain other IA Chiefs would say same because we did. We were appointed by our Districts & voluntarily spent many hours reviewing ALL complaints that came before IA, not just those that complainants wanted reopened, we reviewed them ALL. There were many IA investigation reports that we read where we raised questions about the interview questions not asked, info not followed up on, witness identified but not interviewed, & inconsistencies in what an officer wrote in their initial report & what was said during subsequent IA interview. These questions and concerns were brought to the attention of IA. Many a complaint that had been closed was reopened because of something the CRB reviewed. Recommendations for changes or clarification of General Orders came from the CRB reviewers & some actually manifested in changes to the GO’s (the legal use of cameras by citizens for example). Suggestions for officers involved in the complaints to receive additional training were brought to the attention of supervisors & that training was provided. To say that the old CRB was not effective is an insult to the residents that volunteered THEIR time and energy to pursue this work.  And the ‘old’ CRB did not ‘fade away’ … it was deactivated by City at the acceptance of the new City Ordinance. Up until that time, we reviewed cases, reported to IA and made recommendations, until we were no longer allowed to do so. I don’t agree that the only way the CRB can be effective is if it has subpoena power (sorry John V), leave that to Police Commissioners. But it can be an effective oversight board. I can read, discern, evaluate & recommend. I can offer a perspective that an officer (investigatee or investigator) may not have. And THAT is what a CRB can and should do.

Leslie Radcliffe

posted by: JohnDVelleca on March 22, 2017  7:14am

@Hill Resident

Hi Leslie, hope all is well with you!  I didn’t mean to infer that the CRB was incompetent or inept, my apologies if that appeared to be the context of my comment.  I worked in IAD under Pat Redding when the CRB was alive and well.  It certainly served a purpose and the members did their best to be objective and fair.  But, I do have issue with the community being deceived into thinking that the CRB is a panacea regarding police oversight because it’s not.  Speaking frankly, the CRB in it’s current structure could very easily be “kept at arm’s length” because it lacks the authority and the autonomy to be completely apolitical.  Furthermore, the IAD doesn’t have to be completely cooperative with the CRB unless there is a directive (General Order) from the Chief that sets forth that mandate and that needs to be negotiated with the police union.  I assure you from experience that will be a tough sell.  In the real world of police command these are issues that can’t be resolved with press conferences and pro-community policing one-liners pulled from the most recent textbook.  The real litmus test for the efficiency of a CRB comes when their opinion breaks from that of the police department and the political culture.  In that type of situation, in our city, the CRB loses every time.  There are many other problems we can discuss surrounding the CRB, but that’s the major issue.  I have to go right now, we’ll talk more later…

posted by: MrWin on March 22, 2017  9:00am

I agree with Mr. Velleca here, in that it seems like they are just re-inventing a toothless CRB. Subpoena power is the key here.

posted by: DrJay on March 22, 2017  10:23am

They need to include a mechanism to remove members of the board. Otherwise the slots can be filled with people who don’t do any work or don’t attend the hearings.

posted by: Realmom21 on March 22, 2017  12:14pm

its so crazy that people think police officers cant cant police themselves..In the US CONSTITUTION it states we should be judged by a jury of our peers but ironically the pole who judge officers are not their peers. the think they know how someone should act react and what they should feel, see, hear, and react in fractions of a second but in reality they have never walked the walk. Hell NEW HAVEN even had a police chief who had never walked the walk so HE(ESSERMAN) had no idea of just how challenging it could be to carry yourself ,or how to execute the expected standards of professionalism. There is definitely room to have to have a mixture of people and professionals and NON professionals to critique them but police officers must be a significant part of the equations.  Anyone who has ever been a parent can tell you its real easy to say what a parent should or should do or how you should or shouldnt until its your child you really dont know .teachers the same thing until you are in a class you cant imagine..etc…reality you want perfection in actions and in spirit and no one is capable of that and in the end you are willing to strip officers of everything for something even if its a mistake .Perfect example a certain journalist wants police to do their JOB(Protect and serve) but sil let him do what ever the heck it is he wants even at a crime scene until something goes boom>

posted by: wendy1 on March 22, 2017  3:25pm

The picture shows a young Buddhist who did nothing get slammed to the street.  Now my lawyer has to defend a completely innocent Nate Blair,  a lovely and peaceful kid.

posted by: wendy1 on March 23, 2017  1:58pm

I think a civilian review board is a complete waste of time and money.  If they did any good ever, we would have seen changes in this country’s treatment of blacks, hispanics, and low offenders and non-offenders.  If you want to change the police, join the force or become a mayor.  Sometimes bribes work well.

posted by: Hill Resident on March 23, 2017  2:56pm

@ John V: We may not be on the same page but I believe we are in the same book ... which is why I used my name in my response to you. I agree that the CRB is definitely not the END ALL/BE ALL for policing oversight ... only another set of eyes that can represent a community perspective. I take nothing away from the investigatory abilities of the NHPD IA (or other units). But when you have complaints from citizens, a CRB is one way to provide a level of transparency with the investigation to the complainant & community.There may always suspicion of whether police can police themselves’, but I have that expectation because I know far more GOOD police than not. I believe there are also civilians who hold that same perspective who can review a complaint with minimal bias just as we IA to do. CRB should continue to be limited in its purview with very specific guidelines to perform reviews, i.e.: ‘does it appear the investigation was performed without undue bias towards either party; that all potential witness were interviewed; that the responses were given without coercion or intimidation (video interviews would help to validate responses); that the officer named in the complaint operated outside the scope of the related GO’s or exhibited any behavior contrary or unbecoming his to his position as a police officer; was the result of investigation communicated to the complainant’ ... stuff like that. Complaints should be reviewed BEFORE they are closed by IA. Once closed, case goes to BOPC to take action or not on those cases where there was a ‘break in opinion’, with a CRB rep present when case is discussed to address those issues. If (the members of) CRB have no legal responsibility for it’s opinions, then the CRB should hold no legal authorities (i.e; subpoena power) ... only opinion. CRB should be for review and recommend only. You don’t give power to an entity that’s not trained to utilize that power. FYI: CRB has made recommendations to the training of recruits too!

posted by: East Shore on March 24, 2017  1:10pm

Thanks to Chief Campbell and Leslie Radcliff for pointing out important interaction between the CRB and IA. . 

Management team members joined or were appointed to CRB because of a commitment to their district.  Contrary to many comments, 2 CRB members reviewed each case and, if necessary, asked other members to read. Numerous times CRB members would have cases reopened for additional information, question findings, make suggestions to improve process flow and regardless of who led IA at the time, suggestions were always considered and usually implemented.

Board of Police Commissioners: there was someone assigned to represent them at CRB meetings but that representative only attended intermittently.
Board of Alders: At one time it was a vacant post but then Alder Evette Hamilton was assigned and she was extremely dedicated to the Board.
(see DATE and mssg below)

TO: Civilian Review Board Members
FROM: Michael A. Carter, Chief Administrative Officer
DATE: September 2, 2014
This is to inform you that you have no obligation, requirement or mandate to conduct any regular or routine CRB activities. The office of the CAO and the Board of Alders are in the process of reviewing proposals for the vacant position formerly known as CRB Coordinator. The former CRB will be restructured to reflect the goals and objectives of the new charter language.

Your dedication, commitment and hard work are fully appreciated, and we look forward to working with many of you in the not too distant future. The work that you all have contributed is a major reason that we have arrived at the point we are today and will not soon be forgotten. I plan to provide future updates when feasible.
This communication is NOT to be misconstrued as you being formally “disbanded” as was articulated at a recent meeting with your Executive Board.
This is a cessation of activities until such time as new personnel and guidelines are implemented.