OSPC Takes Point on Public Feedback
BY ERIC O’CONNELL/ZIP06.COM • 12/08/2021 08:34 A.M. EST
OLD SAYBROOK —
At the first Police Commission (PC) meeting following the election, the body made a major change to commission protocols by naming the PC chairman as the point of contact for public communications to the commission. That contact had previously been Chief of Police Michael Spera.
Now, when residents or other members of the public want to reach out with questions, positive feedback, suggestions, and complaints regarding the department as well as the PC, new PC Chairman Alfred Chub Wilcox is the key contact person.
Having Spera serve as the point of contact had rankled some citizens and commission members in 2020. Some were critical of having the chief of police be the person receiving their communications, especially if they were messages complaining about the department, an officer, or the chief himself. Some residents expressed a concern that the procedure could potentially allow serious issues to be hidden from the commission and prevent the members from properly overseeing the department.
“I was struck by how backward that seemed, that citizens had to go through the chief to get in touch with the commission,” said Wilcox.
Wilcox acknowledged that while the change may be symbolic, it could reinforce the notion that the commission is not a part of the Old Saybrook Police Department and is there for oversight.
After citizens brought up concerns in 2020, a motion to change the point of contact failed to pass in a December 2020 PC meeting. The vote was along party lines with five Republicans voting against the measure compared to two Democrats.
At the Nov. 22, 2021 meeting, the results were markedly different as the commission unanimously voted to change the point of contact. The impetus for this change was the highly publicized and sometimes bitter election that saw the power of the PC change from a Republic majority to a Democratic one. The five new Democratic candidates ran in part on increasing the transparency of the PC by adopting measures like the one voted on at the Nov. 22 meeting.
“I hope for people that they have a clearer understanding what we are. We are not subservient to the police department or the police chief. We are there independently of them and are not a part of them,” Wilcox said.
Wilcox said that in time for the next meeting there will be contact information for each PC member on the website. Wilcox also said that the commission will review the bylaws at a future meeting.