At our last meeting I was once again the object of multiple accusations,
by both the Chief and some of the Commissioners. In light of those
accusations, I think I owe it to the Department and to our community to
explain where I am coming from. I also think the other Commissioners
owe it to me to let me have the uninterrupted few minutes that explanation
will take.
First of all, it seems to me it should be taken as a given that anyone who
volunteers to serve on any Town board or commission does so because
she or he wants to contribute to making Old Saybrook the best place to
live that it can be. In the case of the Police Commission, that means
helping to make our police department be the very best it can be with the
resources the Town dedicates to it. And as I have said many times, I think
there are many good things about our police department, up to and
including the Chief. Our experiences through the pandemic only reinforce
that conclusion. But I also think it is possible that there may be ways in
which the department might be improved upon, and ways in which the
department really should change. In that latter category is a concern
which can best be summed up this way:
To me, Old Saybrook deserves a community policing approach, and to me,
that primarily means policing with a light touch rather than a heavy hand.
Time and again, however, I’ve encountered evidence of what seems to me
to be an unwarranted and inappropriate heavy handedness. Let me give
some examples.
The “Old Saybrook Air Freshener Heroes” video presented us with a
purported DUI stop of an Hispanic gentleman that immediately morphed
into a handcuffing and a completely unfruitful drug search, all supposedly
justified by an air freshener hanging from the gentleman’s rear view mirror.
The conduct depicted in that video was an embarrassment to our
department and to our town, and that’s why I brought it up before the
Commission.
The fracas over the Chief’s withholding mail from the Commissioners was
occasioned by a citizen’s complaint about a traffic stop, for no discernible
reason, of a middle aged man dropping his daughter off at his ex-wife’s
home in Old Saybrook, and being commanded to get out of his car for no
apparent reason, being patted down for no apparent reason, and with the
young teenage daughter also being commanded to get out of the car for
no apparent reason. I brought that to the Commission’s attention at the
first meeting after I learned of it, and the majority Commissioners declined
to look into it.
The next issue I raised related to our department’s reaction to a report of a
stolen street name sign, which resulted in three or four officers and our
Chief of Police converging on two women and a young man with Down’s
Syndrome, mistakenly confronting them as though they were felons
instead of summer residents simply enjoying a picnic in their own yard.
The majority Commissioners declined to look into it.
And then we come to the recent departures of several of our officers,
which prompted this whole “turnover” issue. Reasons for leaving cited by
those departing officers evidenced similar aspects of what I would think of
as overzealous or heavy-handed policing. This included the Chief
requiring patrol officers to arrest people for offenses which the officer
might have preferred to let go with some counseling, or to just issue a
citation for but not drag down to the police station and incarcerate. Again,
this to me smacks of heavy-handedness directed from the top down. And
these reasons were echoed in the exit interviews of other officers, which I
was prevented from summarizing in our May meeting. But the point is that
once again, the majority Commissioners decided not to look into any of
these departures or the reasons for them.
In addition, two of those original three departing officers were quoted as
saying that one of their reasons for leaving Old Saybrook was that the
Chief had ordered them to conduct what they understood to be illegal
searches. And again, the majority Commissioners voted down my motion
that we look into that issue.
As I hope is evident, I have no animus against our police officers, whether
they choose to leave or opt to stay and continue to serve our community
as best they can.
As I hope is also evident, while I have no personal animus against the
Chief, I do question the appropriateness of what strikes me as an
unnecessarily heavy handed approach in dealing with our citizens. But I
am not a police professional. I can imagine that there could be
considerations pointing in other directions. I humbly acknowledge that I
don’t have all the answers.
Which brings me to my next point. It seems that whenever I raise just a
question, a majority of you Commissioners try to smack me down and
decline to look into what might be a potential problem. You officially
reprimanded me for bringing up the “Air Freshener Heroes” video. You
officially reprimanded me for speaking with the father of the teenager
being returned to her mother’s home. You amended the By-Laws to
prevent me from undertaking any “independent investigations.” You have
shot down my every effort to look beyond the Chief’s explanation of
departmental turnover. And you have repeatedly rejected my efforts to
revive the structure and staffing study.
So, it is certainly fair to say that when it comes to a majority of the current
Commissioners, I am indeed resistant and persistent. That is because I
think we Commissioners owe it to the town of Old Saybrook and to our
police department to bring to bear whatever abilities we have so that we
can make our police department as best it can be at serving our
community’s needs. We don’t do that by placidly accepting whatever the
Chief is telling us and ignoring what our eyes and ears are telling us. I
firmly believe that as Commissioners we need to inform ourselves as best
we can, obtain all the help we can, and share as much as we can with our
fellow citizens. Only in that way can we challenge the Chief to do better,
and thereby — possibly — help him and the department to do better.
Let me close with this last thought. I do not question the Chief’s devotion
and dedication to Old Saybrook, his intelligence, or his hard work. But the
Chief is fond of drawing the analogy that he is the CEO, and the Police
Commission is the Board of Directors. I agree with that. But it is the
responsibility of the Board of Directors to establish the mission, set the
goals, give guidance as to the methods for meeting those goals, and
monitor progress toward those ends. If we don’t do that, that’s on us.
And if we don’t do that, our “shareholders,” the people of Old Saybrook,
really should replace us.
Thank you.

Dan Moran

 

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Adam Boyd
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Colin Heffernan
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Carol Conklin
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A. Donald Cooper
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Ken Soudan
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Neil McCrudden
  • Neil and wife Ethel have lived in Old Saybrook for 20 years
  • Retired Pharmacist – having graduated from Pharmacy School at U.R.I.
  • Served in U.S. Navy during WW II
  • Member of the Elderly Benefit Committee
  • Served on the Estuary Transit Board
  • Past member of the OSDTC
  • Active member of the American Red Cross and American Cancer Society
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George Chang

 

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John O'Brien
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Alan Spargo
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George Wall
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Emilio Scamporino
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Susan Esty
 
  • Park and Recreation Commission member for over 6 years
  • Integral to the successful restoration of Parks and Play Fields after Hurricanes Irene and Sandy, including the Saybrook Point Miniature Golf facility
  • Worked on Appointment of the new Director of P&R, after retirement of Vicky Duffy
  • Serves on The Preserve Ad Hoc Committee
  • Strong believer in the value of Old Saybrook’s many natural resources for recreation.
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