New Haven Community Fights for Civilian Review Board
by Al Riccio and Dom Grzybko, ANSWER CT
On the night of Jan. 29, over 200 people packed a Board of Alders committee meeting with the demand for a powerful All-Civilian Review Board. Community members, organizers and students came to declare that changes were needed in the current CRB. Chief demands included:
- Members must not be police officers and must be selected by the community and not by private nomination. The Board must be independent of Internal Affairs.
- The CRB must be adequately funded, so as to ensure it can function effectively and independently.
- Perhaps most importantly, the Board must have subpoena power — the ability to compel witnesses, including active officers, to testify before it.
All of these characteristics are absent from the current Civilian Review Board, which can effectively only recommend Internal Affairs investigate the NHPD and which is currently inactive. Most testimony at the meeting included references to the MALIK/Dawson proposal, which is a powerful review board model approved by referendum in 2000, only to be struck down by then-Mayor DeStefano. Each person who testified addressed the need for profound change, having witnessed or experienced unpunished mistreatment or brutality by the New Haven and Yale police. Speakers brought attention to the growing dissent and distrust of the police. As Emma Jones, mother of Malik Jones (who was killed in 1997 by an East Haven police officer) and drafter of the MALIK/Dawson proposal calling for an All-Civilian Review Board, pointed out: “People discovered that the civilian review board did not have the authority to do anything. It could take a complaint and walk it over to internal affairs. If they didn’t like what internal affairs did, they could come back and ask that it be re-opened. It was a paper tiger that had no authority and no teeth.”
The current CRB is unacceptable; the community is well aware of its inadequacy. The New Haven people will not stand idly by in the coming weeks as the Board of Alders considers their demands. The people will accept nothing less than an All-Civilian Review Board with real power.
While only a fundamental change in society will end police brutality, ANSWER CT supports the community call for a powerful All-Civilian Review Board and will continue to struggle in City Hall and in the streets alongside all people who want change. For more information, contact ANSWER CT at (203) 903-4480 or firstname.lastname@example.org.