If going to a police commission meeting meant getting “buzzed in” at the police station, might people be discouraged from observing government in action at the public — but rarely attended — meetings?
The Board of Police Commissioners is weighing a move from its current meeting spot at the Town Hall Annex to the police station across the street, but they’re seeking feedback before they make a decision.
The meetings are scarcely attended by members of the public, and Police Chief John Roche asked whether the commissioners had any thoughts about moving the meetings.
The rationale behind the potential move is that it would allow the chief and major, who represent the department at the meetings, to readily access documents that might be relevant to the board’s conversations.
Most of the police commissioners didn’t take issue with the idea, but Chairman George Kain said it might send a message that the commission is less accessible than it aims to be.
The unofficial meeting minutes for Thursday, Feb. 14, say, “Commissioner Kain stated that he feels the Commission is a public unit and by conducting the meetings in a Town building like other boards/committees, it sends a message of accessibility to the public – people should feel comfortable walking into the meeting and he does not feel that is conveyed at HQ.
“Commissioner Kain suggested leaving this open for a month or so and speak with the public and other board members to get their feedback.”
The commissioners agreed to wait.
“Lack of attendance is an issue, and coupled with the fact that official documentation that might be requested by commission members during the meeting is more readily accessible if we were meeting at the [police department] is even more of an issue,” Mr. Kain told The Press in a Tuesday email discussing the rationale behind the potential move.
“Still, we have not decided if this change should occur, and we will take the issue up at our next meeting. We are seeking feedback before we make a final decision.
“We must be careful to balance the needs of the public against the need for efficiency in this regard.”
The Board of Selectmen when acting as the Fire Commission started occasionally hold those meetings at the fire headquarters on Catoonah Street.
First Selectman Rudy Marconi said there wasn’t a specific need that drove that decision.
“Nothing, other than it’s a fire commission, so we thought locating the fire commission at the FD once in a while is fine. We don’t move all of our meetings there,” he said.
The police commission used to meet at the police headquarters, but Mr. Marconi said its meetings were moved specifically because of the problems Mr. Kain raised — the uninviting, high-security atmosphere at the police station.
“You have to go through so much security to get into the building which wasn’t really welcoming to the public,” he said of the past location at the police station.
Letters for the Police Commission can be sent to: Ridgefield Police Commission, Ridgefield Police Department, 76 East Ridge Road. Voicemail messages can left by calling the Police Department’s main line, 203-438-6531, and asking for Voice Mail 1049.