Thursday, June 05, 2008

Police Presence at Middletown Council Meetings

Newport this Week provides some information not only on the final Middletown Budget hearing, but on the last Council meeting. News also from Projo's Meaghan Wims that town officials (?!) have requested police presence at all Council meetings. Read the former and you may find out why.

"The Police Department is now posting a police officer at all Town Council meetings, at the request of town officials who were concerned about the safety of council members and the public.
Town Administrator Shawn J. Brown asked the police to staff meetings after a resident’s comments at a recent meeting became heated and were perceived by the council as possibly threatening. Brown and council president Paul M. Rodrigues declined to identify the man or what he said.

“He sounded like he was going to get violent but I think he was just having a hard time expressing himself,” Rodrigues said. The police protection, he said, is “out of an abundance of caution.” [Projo]

Sounded like he was going to get violent? How? I see no indications of this in any reports. "Hard time expressing himself" or you just did not like what he was saying? Opportunities to address the Council have time limits but also "free speech" protections which have legal ramifications. For instance, you could be sued for something you say. This isn't enough?

Or, perhaps this article by Newport This Week's Tyler Wills contributes another motivation behind the requested police presence. At the most recent Council meeting, Councilor Sylvia requested an update of the the War Memorial Committee which has Councilor Santos as its Chair (she made the original enabling motion awhile ago for its formation).

This group was asked in December to create a policy allowing the recognition of town resident veterans (Silveira's motion). He now asked "that the number of members on the committee be increased from four to seven, that a chair, vice-chair, and secretary be designated, and that more publicity be involved, including having public meetings. Finally, he requested that the committee follow the same administrative procedure that all committees." [Newport This Week] Talk about sheer audacity! Arrest that man- at least shush him!

The Prez then said he had to problem expanding the committee's membership* (go ahead, I dare you to find out the current membership), but this topic ceased when he thought "bickering" was involved. Bickering? So what is the difference between discussion & bickering? I think it may simply be a rather subjective point-of-view as to what constitutes "important" & "petty" topics.

*BTW* "President Roderiques reminded the Council of its stated policy that boards and commissions work best with seven members, plus or minus two. Stating that “you never get in trouble if you remain consistent...” [Middletown Newsletter 3/19/07]. Hmmm, 7-2=5. Not 4. So much for consistency. That bickering stuff done you in. That'll teach ya! But I digress.

"...Mr. Rodrigues asked Mr. Silveira to leave the topic of the committee, in part because Santos was the founder.

"She beat you to the punch line," Mr. Rodrigues said to Mr. Silveira. "I don't know if you like that or not, but she brought it to the table."

So first with the punch rules all? Because I say so, because she says so... Unbelievable. The rules/politics exist...sometimes.

"The current policy that Ms. Santos and the committee operate under allows for recognition, but only of town employees. Mr. Silveira wants that to change. "
I think enough is being done," Santos said. "We meet when we have to, and we have 10 names (of veterans) honored at our next meeting." The ten names were submitted through the payroll department, Santos said.

She added that the four members on the committee have generated suggestions, such as the rank of the veteran next to his or her name on a plaque.

"We work very well together, and we work as a team," Ms. Santos said. [Newport This Week]
Forget public input. Forget rules of order. Heck, screw those open meeting & sunshine laws. We know best. Whoever we are. It's Councilor Santos' committee & that is that. Because we say so. Which brings me back to my original topic of police presence at Council meetings. So where are the perceived threats & intimidation here?

Armed police presence is intimidating and its meant to be. The officer stands in the entranceway. One wonders if it's not only to control the public, but also the Councilors themselves. At a recent meeting the officer "shushed" the crowd twice. Heck, who needs a Chair any longer if an officer can decide on the rules of the game. Suppose you refused to shush? Suppose you refuse to leave? Ever watch the BBC's filming of Parliament? Catcalls, boo's, applause, etc. are all commonplace. And they INVENTED parliamentary procedure.

How much is this costing us as the school dept. contemplates cutting middle school sports or all- day K? Do the same rules also apply to Councilors? Exactly what are the rules? I would not object to a wanding in search of weapons to promote safety. But shushing by an armed officer? Doesn't this seem rather extreme? Hell no, we won't go!

What other towns/cities do this on a regular basis? I've found very few nationwide & zilch in Rhode Island. What do you think? I find all of this very disturbing & intimidating myself- and I'm not even talking about the audience. It sounds to me as if the Chair has given up on his responsibility of keeping order & passed the hot potato on to the police. Kind of makes me wonder how he would survive everyday in a classroom of kids. This is penny ante stuff. Let me see, I had a kid pull out a knife, was threatened with a car bomb, intimidated with a 6'4'' teen nose-to-nose asking me what I was going to do about it, had eggs thrown at my back, was threatened with a lawsuit, kicked in the shins, blah, blah, blah. Penny-ante.
Post a Comment