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Norwalk needs a citizen review board for its police department

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This is an open letter to Mayor Harry Rilling and Norwalk Police Chief Thomas Kulhawik.

The Race and Social Justice Coalition at St. Paul’s, a diverse group of over 60 church and community members, has been learning about issues of race and justice for the past four years. Through research and examination of books, discussions, films and much more we have grown into a coalition which is concerned about human rights and issues of social justice, within the state of Connecticut and particularly in the city of Norwalk where two- thirds of Coalition members live. While our efforts to date have focused on housing and education, recent events in our country, a Norwalk town hall meeting on police accountability and the incident involving Senator Bob Duff last summer, have made us add police accountability to our agenda and triggered this letter. The review of the Duff incident, made internally and then approved by Mayor Rilling, a former police chief, was opaque to many Norwalk citizens and raised serious concerns within our group about the process of appeal and fairness in decision making.

We wish to express support for any steps the police department has taken recently towards the fair and sensitive policing of all Norwalk residents. Having had members of the Race and Social Justice Coalition participate in the protests last summer, we know that the Norwalk police department did an admirable job protecting all citizens and allowing for peaceful protest. Further, we applaud any ongoing efforts of anti-bias training or sensitization on issues of gender and race.

We feel strongly, however, that more needs to be done to address the issue of accountability where there are disputes between the police and citizens. We therefore respectfully submit a request that a citizen review board for the police department be established in Norwalk. We are convinced that such a board would not only increase public confidence in community policing but would also support the whole department in their efforts to project the openness and transparency necessary in today’s climate. We request that the police department and the city government create a review board that includes non-police-connected citizens. With this request, we are asking for only one of the recommendations in the recently passed state bill on police accountability. There is sufficient anecdotal evidence within communities of color that such a board is warranted.

We wish to enhance the review system and build citizen confidence in the police, not undermine the authority of the police chief or department.

Norwalk deserves a police department that serves all its citizens equitably and justly, not only by internal standards within the police department, but also by external standards from its citizens. Creating an appropriate review board will only serve to build much needed confidence in the police, particularly among minority and vulnerable communities. We hope that our request will meet with serious consideration from you both.

We look forward to your timely response.

 

The Race and Social Justice Coalition at St. Paul’s

8 comments

David Muccigrosso March 5, 2021 at 8:07 am

It’s better to do this NOW when there’s no (local) controversy and no one’s angry at the NPD than AFTER the unthinkable happens and everyone’s polarized over a racially-charged incident.

DrewT March 5, 2021 at 9:06 am

So let me get this straight. Your main reasoning for this “Review Board” is solely based on a liar like Bob Duff?! Are you serious?! The NPD actually has a review board currently called the Police Commission. Further they have an Internal Affairs. They are very much independently reviewed constantly by the public. And of course the Anti Police Bill that the Democrats led by the top liar in the Senate down our throats.

Priscilla Feral March 5, 2021 at 9:30 am

That’s a well-argued and reasoned letter and appeal. What credentials would police and city government look for so that someone could serve on a review board?

John ONeill March 5, 2021 at 12:14 pm

As Yogi Berra so aptly said, this letter is Deja Vu all over again. This same group posted this last week under someone’s name…if there’s going to be a review board at least have people on the board who don’t have agendas…That should exclude this group.

Audrey Cozzarin March 5, 2021 at 2:31 pm

John O’Neill, ALL people have agendas.

Citizens’ groups, such as this one being proposed, and for many other matters, make sense as we upgrade democracy and begin really discussing social problems—in ways that bring us together, not separating us. Doing our homework, as this Coalition and others have. Seeking visionary, innovative, and realistic/practical ideas that work for here and now. With respect, honesty, transparency, joy even, and most importantly, LOVE.

BAS March 5, 2021 at 4:00 pm

It’s good idea but this repeat comes across as shadowy. Who’s in the coalition? Are they talking about social justice or defending a local politician?

JustaTaxpayer March 6, 2021 at 9:14 am

If all the 60 members represent a “progressive” bent and embrace diversity (with the exception of Trump voters), how can this be an impartial group?

Norwalk March 6, 2021 at 2:47 pm

Why not a review board to help officers with substance abuse considering the recent incident…

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