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Interim report from police study committee; public meeting Oct. 27

Submitting the following were Laura Gitelson and Susan Ryan-Vollmar, cochairs of Arlington’s Civilian Police Advisory Board Study Committee. Town Meeting appointed Gitelson; the LGBTQIA+ Rainbow Commission appointed Ryan-Volmar.

Police advisory image

The study committee plans to hold a meeting for the public at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 27 -- a chance for town residents and employees to share their thoughts on the current process by which residents can file complaints about police interactions, whether Arlington would benefit from a police civilian review board with the authority and resources to receive and investigate civilian complaints, offer feedback on our status report and any matters related to civilian-police interactions.

The meeting will be held online, and you can register here >>

Late last year, the 2020 Special Town Meeting approved a warrant article to create a Civilian Police Advisory Board Study Committee to consider alternative ways for residents to file complaints about police interactions and to study whether Arlington would benefit from a police civilian review board with the authority and resources to receive and investigate civilian complaints.

Consider impact of new law

The committee was also tasked with reviewing police services, examining the experiences of comparable communities and considering the impact of the state’s new police reform law—known as the JEALE (Justice, Equity and Accountability in Law Enforcement) Act—on any recommendations that the study committee might have for the town. Finally, it was asked to share its findings and recommendations to the 2022 annual meeting.

As study committee cochairs, we are writing to share that the committee has published a “Status Report” to the town detailing its work and learnings to date. The report is available on the town’s website, and we encourage all residents to read it here >>

In Massachusetts, four communities have created permanent committees to formalize civilian-police relations: Cambridge, Springfield, Pittsfield and Boston. Like Arlington, the towns of Lexington, Newton and Brookline and the cities of Somerville and Lynn are also examining whether civilian-police advisory boards would be appropriate for their communities.

The work of Cambridge’s Police Review and Advisory Board was recently reviewed by the National Association for Civilian Oversight of Law Enforcement (NACOLE) as part of a project funded by the federal Office of Community Oriented Policing Services of the U.S. Department of Justice. During our Aug. 3 meeting, Brian Corr, the immediate past president of NACOLE and the executive secretary for Cambridge’s Police Review and Advisory Board, gave our study committee an overview of the history of policing and civilian oversight. You can watch his presentation, whichgenerated a lot of discussion among committee members, on Arlington Community Media’s YouTube page, or just below.

See the ACMi video of the Aug. 3 meeting:

Today, there are just over 200 civilian oversight/review boards throughout the country, with most of them created in the last 10 years, though at least one dates back to 1928. Since the summer of 2020 and the murder of George Floyd, another 150 communities have been working with NACOLE to explore ways to bring civilian oversight to their communities, and hundreds more, like Arlington, are studying the issue.

To date, the study committee has met 10 times. In addition to NACOLE’s Corr, we invited Pittsfield Chief of Police Michael Wynn to present to us on his experiences with Pittsfield’s Police Advisory and Review Board. Wynn is one of Gov. Charlie Baker’s three appointees to the Massachusetts Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST) Commission, which is creating a mandatory certification process for police officers, as well as processes for decertification, suspension of certification, or reprimand in the event of misconduct. The Massachusetts Legislature passed the JEALE Act in late 2020. This act contains many police-reform initiatives, including the POST Commission.

17 members

Arlington’s study committee has 17 members. Four of them are ex-officio, nonvoting members: Arlington Police Chief Julie Flaherty, Town Counsel Doug Heim, Director of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Jillian Harvey and Ashley Maher, Select Board office manager.

The remaining members can vote on findings and recommendations. Three (Gitelson, Sanjay Newton and Clarissa Rowe) were appointed as representatives of Town Meeting. Seven were appointed by various town boards and commissions, including the Envision Arlington Standing Committee (Michael Brownstein); the Envision Arlington Diversity Task Group (Carlos Morales); the Human Rights Commission (Kathy Rogers); the LGBTQIA+ Rainbow Commission (Ryan-Vollmar); the Disability Commission (Kerrie Fallon); the Board of Youth Services (Karen Bishop); and the Council on Aging (Anne Brown).

Two were appointed by Arlington High School Principal Matthew Janger, with one (Mona Mohtadi) serving as a voting member and one (Elliot Elkin) serving as an alternate. A graduate of the Citizens Police Academy (Bob Radochia) was appointed by Harvey.  

November-December 2020: 2020 virtual Special Town Meeting: All links


Sept. 23, 2020: Panel challenges Lt. Pedrini to take action to make change real

This news update was published Sunday, Oct. 10, 2021.

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