Move meetings of the civilian agency that oversees the police department to the buzz-me-in atmosphere of the police station? No.
The Police Commission is considering the idea of relocating its meetings from the town hall annex to police headquarters. With good sense, the commission has asked for public reaction to the idea.
It’s hard to see what’s to be gained. The thought behind the move is that there would be more convenient access various police records, if a need comes up. But discussions at the meetings are governed by a public agenda that must be set in advance, under state freedom of information law. It should be a rare occasion that there is a need for records or documents that couldn’t be easily be anticipated by the officials who set the agenda.
The town hall annex, a wing off the old high school building, has offices and meeting rooms, convenient parking. It’s where several other town agencies — the Board of Education, the Planning and Zoning Commission, the Conservation Commission, the Zoning Board of Appeals — regularly meet.
Police headquarters doesn’t have the kind of accessible ground floor meeting rooms the annex has. There’s less nearby parking. And the police station is, well, the police station. It’s always locked, and visitors — including members of the public who might be going to attend commission meetings — have to be buzzed in by an officer on desk duty. It’s intimidating.
Any marginal increase in convenience to police officials that a move of the meetings might have would be outweighed by a less welcoming atmosphere for the public.
An understanding of government and how it works is one of the foundations of democracy. Few experiences are as educational for citizens interested in local government as attending meetings of boards and commissions, observing town agencies and officials as they do their work. There aren’t that many people interested in doing this groundwork of local democracy. But Ridgefield has long been lucky to have at least a few hardy souls who make it their business — such the late Dominic D’Addario, a faithful regular at meetings of Police Commission as well as the Board of Selectmen, the Board of Finance, the Planning and Zoning Commission.
The Police Commission should do all it can to encourage public attendance at its meetings. Moving them to police headquarters would have the opposite effect.
And what would Dom say?