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In Tactical Mode....
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Saturday, July 19, 2008
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SPRINGFIELD - City officials Friday announced the names of five new members of a Police Department civilian review board and a series of events to educate and involve the public in the wake of recent criticism questioning the board's visibility and effectiveness.

During a press conference at City Hall, Mayor Domenic J. Sarno and his chief of staff, Denise R. Jordan, presented the city's newly realigned, nine-member Community Complaint Review Board. All are residents of Springfield.

"This advisory board is going to be on the forefront of being out there, proactive, education, and getting out to the public," Sarno said. "I think that is the key to help better understand and develop positive relationships, police and community relationships, which I believe that we are on the right track."

City Councilor Jose F. Tosado has been asking why the board has not been more visible and has criticized its closed meetings to date.

The Rev. Talbert W. Swan II, said Friday he continues to have great concern that the board has few teeth and plays only an advisory role in reviewing the results of investigations by the Police Department's internal investigation unit.

Police Commissioner William J. Fitchet has oversight over all disciplinary matters, and relies on reports from his Internal Investigation Unit, that will be reviewed by the civilian board. No cases have been reviewed yet, but one of the recent matters under police investigation involves an 18-year-old, Louis Jiles, who was shot in the wrist by Officer Stephen Hill on July 9, following a car chase.

Jordan, who serves as the board's coordinator and who has defended its progress to date, announced a number of plans by the board aimed at public inclusion and education including:

To provide brochures next week detailing the mission and function of the review board, available to the public at City Hall, local libraries and community centers.

To provide citywide training sessions to interested community groups regarding the complaint filing process related to police matters such as excessive force.
To have its first open board meeting, at 5 p.m., on Aug. 7 at City Hall, to solicit public input.

To schedule a workshop next month entitled "Keeping Your Cool," directed to the youth on how to handle themselves during interactions with police.

To work with retired state police Lt. William E. Blatch, to present a public workshop on police and motorist interaction at 5:30 p.m., Aug. 21, at City Hall.

The board initially had a full-time coordinator when formed in October, but Sarno chose Jordan to take over those duties as part of her chief-of-staff functions when he took office in January, with Tosado asking him to reconsider.

Jordan, Sarno and board Chairman Edgar J. Alejandro said they are satisfied with the board's progress.
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