Three 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.
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:
ORDINANCE OF THE CITY OF NEW HAVEN ESTABLISHING THE CIVILIAN REVIEW BOARD
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:
NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT ORDAINED THAT:
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.