The City Council’s Public Safety Committee takes up the proposal to reinstate a Police Commission today at 4:30 in City Hall.
[Author’s note: I’d just posted this when I spotted a tweet from Councilor Melvin Edwards announcing that the meeting has been postponed until Thursday – same Bat time, same Bat channel.]
But the Sarno administration continues to send the same message it has since the idea was first raised earlier this month: don’t bother.
Six councilors are sponsoring the proposal, which would replace the SPD’s current one-commissioner model (that being Commissioner William Fitchet) with the five-person commission, its members city residents appointed by the mayor, that would oversee policy and personnel matters in the department, including discipline.
Mayor Domenic Sarno opposes the move and initially vowed to veto the ordinance if it passes the Council. More recently, the city Law Department issued a (controversial, it probably goes without saying) opinion saying that the proposal would violate the city’s “strong-mayor” charter and therefore would not be legal—unless the mayor supported it, that is.
Council President Mike Fenton, the lead sponsor of the ordinance, is eager to see the proposal come to a vote, before Sarno has the opportunity to sign a contract with a new police commissioner. Fitchet has announced that he will retire within the next few months, and the mayor has said he plans to hire one of the SPD’s three deputy chiefs as his replacement. If Sarno signs a contract with a new commissioner before the Council votes on the ordinance, Fenton recently told the Advocate, the matter will be moot, since a revamped multi-member commission model would violate the contract.
Supporters of reviving a Police Commission have been making their case via old-school and social media. In the latter category: a brand-new and awfully spirited Twitter account called Springfield Satire (@SpfldpoliSatire), which is deploying all sorts of pop-culture memes (from Batman to “Family Guy”) and a healthy dose of snark at targets including Sarno (“Not sure if Sarno believes Police Department is perfect or if he just likes going against the will of the Council”) and City Solicitor Ed Pikula (“Pikula was wrong about biomass, [Indian Orchard] church, Mason Square Library … Shall I go on?”). Police Commission supporters aren’t completely safe from the mystery satirist, either; consider the meme of a dapper but rather cranky-looking baby, an apparent stand-in for Fenton, with the caption, “I may be the youngest member of the Council, but I’m the damn president, I set the agenda.”
Would-be bomb-throwers, take note: Springfield Satire says it’s open to “public suggestions.”