The Public Deserves Full Transparency in Bridgeport Police Chief Search
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The Bridgeport Police Department is the largest and fastest growing city department, taking up more of our resources at the expense of other institutions like education, libraries, and our parks. It is also a department in a crisis of leadership, mismanagement, violence, and corruption. In the past year and a half alone, Bridgeport police killed unarmed 15 year-old Jayson Negron, engaged in dangerous high-speed chases resulting in the death of 18 year-old Corbin Cooper, and are totally out of compliance with our state’s racial profiling law. In light of these and many other issues - and to build bridges for stronger civilian oversight - we, members of Bridgeport Generation Now, started attending our monthly Police Commission meetings.
In the midst of our research, Mayor Ganim announced he would conduct a nationwide search for a new Chief of Police. Immediately, we knew community engagement would be key to a healthy and democratic search process. According to the International Association of Police Chiefs, “Involving [the community] in public safety efforts...strengthen[s] the department’s presence...and the community’s trust in the agency.”
After a corruption scandal rocked the Oakland Police Department, in 2016 Mayor Libby Schaaf announced that "enhanced community accountability" would be a "big part" of Oakland's search process and future. Under her leadership, the City of Oakland appointed community members to their selection committee, included youth in the hiring process, and rolled out a series of forums designed to get public input. Under Mayor Ganim’s leadership, however, Bridgeport is subjected to something quite different.
In May, the City hired a consultant to oversee the search process. Originally, Randi Frank held only closed-door meetings with folks pre-selected by Ganim’s office. After public pressure, Mayor Ganim arranged for two public meetings. During these meetings, Ms. Frank promised she would use the community’s input to screen candidates down to a list of finalists. Then, according to David Dunn, the City’s Personnel Director, a ten-person selection committee comprised of community members appointed by Mayor Ganim, would select three candidates for Ganim to review.
Under these assumptions, we presented our ideal requirements and interview questions. We also asked if one of our members could be appointed to the search committee. Despite attempts to have open communication, we never received any follow-up from Mr. Dunn.
It is October and we now know Mayor Ganim has given up on any promise of public-facing community engagement. In September, his office told Hearst Media they would not release the names of the ten people on the search committee. This week, we learned that Ganim’s administration will not even convene a community-minded search committee, scrapping this process for a five-person “professional panel” made up of “two police chiefs from out-of-town, two human resources professionals and an individual with municipal management experience.” Again, the identities of these five people are a secret. Also secret are the names and professional experience of the seven finalists for this taxpayer-funded, city job.
The lack of public inclusion, transparency, and vision for a 21st Century Bridgeport Police Department is striking. On behalf of our members, coalition partners, and the public, we call on Mayor Ganim for full transparency and meaningful community engagement in this search process.
We call on him to immediately do the following:
- release the names and organizational affiliations of the members of the professional panel;
- appoint five community members without ties to the administration, including youth, to the panel;
- release the names and records of the seven finalists;
- and hold public meetings in all City Council districts to get real community input.
Anything less shows a blatant disregard for the people and the progress of Bridgeport.
Signed by Bridgeport Generation Now. Co-signed by Kyle Langan, City Council, 132nd District; Pete Spain, City Council, 130th District; Justice For Jayson; Reverend Anthony Bennett, Congregations Organized for a New Connecticut; The Council of Churches of Greater Bridgeport; ACLU of Connecticut; and Showing Up For Racial Justice Fairfield County.
Published as an Op-Ed in the Connecticut Post on Thursday, October 18th, 2018: https://www.ctpost.com/opinion/article/Group-wants-in-on-Bridgeport-chief-pick-13315373.php
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