I'm sure we'll hear more details tomorrow, but at the moment I have some questions.
First, when did Mayor Sarno actually find out about the November 27th "encounter" between Melvin Jones III and the four police officers, which left Melvin with partial loss of sight in one eye? We the community found out last Thursday, when the Springfield Republican broke the story, along with accompanying video. Turns out that city and police officials had had the video for several weeks. So it seems as if Sarno's quick response was only quick if compared to the date of community outrage.
Second, not too make too long a process out of this, will Sarno be seeking community input into the structure and composition of this new civilian police commission
Third, what is the police union going to have to say about this? I find it hard to believe the union will willingly allow its members to be disciplined by a structure outside the department. (Not saying this shouldn't happen, but will it?)
Does anyone remember the April, 2007 report on the right form of community review of the police for the City of Springfield? The city paid a pretty penny for it and that report shaped the current, toothless system of police oversight, but it did put its finger on one serious problem. From the report by Jack McDevitt and Amy Farrell:
The single most significant challenge facing the City of Springfield as they establish a new Civilian Review Board is the time constraints that the department is operating under as part of the existing Collective bargaining agreement. The current police contract for the Springfield Police Department requires a disposition of all complaints within 90 days. The current contact specifies:Last question, but scarcely the least important: what is going to happen to Officer Jeffrey Asher and the other three officers?
All interdepartmental charges against a unit member shall be initiated no later
than ninety (90) days following the alleged offense or the date the City became
aware of the alleged offense whichever is later, and a hearing on said charges
shall be held within six (60) days thereafter, unless a later date is mutually
agreed upon by the parties (Article 6, Section 4).
This requirement creates a major obstacle to any complaint review process adopted in
Springfield. Thus, the review model chosen for the city most work within the confines of
the existing 90 day disposition requirement. Very few police agencies across the country
face similar constraints when they attempt to establish an external review process.
Watching the community forum the last few days, I've wondered why the pro-police commenters, who are often the same people who think Melvin Jones III got what was coming to him, don't realize something very basic: that much of our community will not be able to turn to the police as part of the solution to a safe community until we ourselves feel safe intersecting with the police. A few bad cops are allowed to poison the atmosphere, and why other officers and the department in general put up with it, I just don't know.