The basement of the United Church on the Green transformed into a deliberation room on Thursday evening, as around 50 people gathered to discuss the logistics of a civilian review board with Dan Barrett, legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Connecticut.
The proposed Malik Civilian Review Board, named for Malik Jones, who at the age of 21 was shot dead by an East Haven police officer in 1997, would oversee policing in New Haven and investigate citizen complaints of cop misconduct. The board would directly collect complaints, independently investigate incidents and recommend discipline if necessary. The police department and the board would then agree upon discipline guidelines. The groups Justice of Jayson and People Against Police Brutality hosted the interactive workshop to spark an open dialogue about the proposal and to hear public feedback.
“We need some agency in our communities because the state is giving us none,” said Kerry Ellington, an activist with the Malik Jones Foundation.
Barrett said there are “three magic ingredients” that he believes should be in any all-civilian review board.
To compel people or documents to show up, the board would need subpoena power. Barrett said this power is critical for gaining access to evidence such as surveillance videos. The board also needs its own staff with the ability to investigate claims, Barrett said. Finally, the civilian board needs funding at a consistent level if it wants to exert any control, he said.
Under the current proposal, the Board would have 13 members, all nominated by community organizations and then approved by the mayor and the Board of Alders. It would also have one nonvoting alder, who would use his subpoena power to help investigate misconduct, and two investigators, one administrator and one assistant, who would track complaints and carry out investigations of reports.
Following Barrett’s presentation, the room broke into seven smaller groups based on different specifics of the review board: data collection and reporting, discipline, subpoena power, investigation, independence, budget and funding and membership.
These groups were meant to stimulate discussion and allow those drafting the proposal to hear feedback.
The data and reporting group was led by Camille Seaberry, who helped develop a database of police brutality incidents in Connecticut. Five attendees sat in a circle discussing questions including “Do you have access to information about police practices in New Haven?” and “What information should remain secret?”
Chris Desir LAW ’18 said the process of creating a meaningful civilian review board is complicated and detailed, so the activists want the community’s help in coming up with solutions.
The United Church on the Green is located at 270 Temple St.
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