Police oversight board has candidate to fill long-empty final seat
The Police Review and Advisory Board has completed interviews to fill a vacancy and will submit a name for appointment within the month, it was announced Wednesday at its monthly meeting.
The board is intended to have five civilian members but has been short a person for more than 15 months. The interview process was said to be slowed by the lack of an executive director, a problem that ended in January with the hiring of Marlissa Briggett — identified on the board’s Web site as “executive secretary” — after a yearlong vacancy. Postings for the empty positions went up in August, months after the holders had departed.
Board members were hopeful City Manager Robert W. Healy would move quickly on their recommendation, but experience led them to speak cautiously about the appointment with the half-dozen members of the public at their meeting.
“Our experience with this has been slow and drawn-out,” chairman Mertin Betts said. “So if you’re looking for us to have a name by next month, I wouldn’t put a big bet on it. We have been through this before.”
Healy hasn’t rejected suggested appointments, but he has been slow to approve them, members said. He has taken more than a year to confirm an appointment, they said.
With member Richard Peters experiencing a personal crisis, Wednesday’s meeting actually started with only two members and Briggett— technically not a quorum. When Susan Melucci arrived to be a third member, the panel felt able to conduct business beyond public comment; in December, when two members couldn’t make it, the meeting was canceled.
There were concerns it would take longer for the board to submit a name to Healy for appointment, because Peters hadn’t been briefed on the suggestion and the matter would have to wait until the April 28 meeting, but members were reminded that personnel matters weren’t public anyway, and therefore could be handled through e-mail.
The board took heard no new complaints Wednesday, but said of the dozen that arrived last year, eight have been resolved. No complaints were resolved since the February meeting.
One is against Sgt. James Crowley for the arrest of Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. Crowley went to Gates’ home July 16 to investigate a reported break-in, then arrested Gates on a charge of disorderly conduct that was dropped five days later. Some suspect race, class or another extraneous factor played a role in the arrest, and the board got three requests — since consolidated — to examine it.
Although such investigations are the board’s role, Healy and Police Commissioner Robert Haas instead created a separate, $210,000 “Gates committee” of a dozen experts from around the country. The board’s July 29 announcement it would investigate the arrest followed Haas’ announcement of the Cambridge Review Committee by almost a week.
The Gates committee has invited the board to its April 26 meeting, Briggett said. Its will the committee’s first full meeting since February. The meetings are not open to the public.
In her executive director’s report, Briggett noted that the board’s Web site now includes a list of scheduled meetings and minutes from previous meetings, and that there is a link to it from the police department’s Web site. She said the board will next tackle the creation of posted quarterly reports and fix a broken link to her own e-mail address.
The board also heard a report from Cambridge Police Lt. Lenny DiPietro, who heads the department’s Youth/Family Services unit.