March 29, 2017

Letter to the Editor: Old Lyme First Selectwoman Offers Overview of Police Grievance Situation

To the Editor:

In a recent letter to LymeLine, the author asked whether grievances filed by our Police Union members reflected mismanagement.  The answer is no.  Management of our police department has been consistently professional, respectful and objective.  Although details regarding personnel matters may not be publicly discussed, it is appropriate for me to give an overview of the facts.

Serious internal discord arose in our police department which, by last spring required intervention.  An independent consultant was retained to identify the causes of the problem and recommend solutions.  All personnel were interviewed in confidence.

The consultant recommended, in short, that all members of the department should work collaboratively to resolve the issues, and to establish a clear chain of command consistent with our Resident Trooper program. This program is conducted under a contract between the Town and the State of CT for supervision of our police force, with the Resident Trooper in charge.  Other officers may provide assistance with tasks, but they must report to the Resident Trooper.

Our efforts to implement the consultant’s recommendations (i.e., to have the officers work together cooperatively to resolve their issues, under the overall supervision of the Resident Trooper) were met with resistance and refusal by some.  It was therefore necessary to make decisions regarding management of the department, including clarification of the chain of command leading up to the Resident Trooper.  The Resident Trooper then worked closely with this office to prepare for the busy summer, met with concerned citizens, and established criteria for assignments to assure proper performance of duties, compliance with the union contract, and fairness to employees.

Certain officers were unhappy with the changes made, and filed grievances.  In consultation with our labor attorney, these were reviewed by me, and dismissed.  Some were then appealed to the full Board of Selectmen which, at two public meetings, unanimously found them to lack merit.  Several of the grievances have now been appealed to the State Department of Labor, where our attorney expects them to be dismissed again.

In short, problems developed within the police department that could not be allowed to continue.  I and the full Board of Selectmen took the necessary corrective action. Fees incurred were money well spent to assure that order was restored to the department in a careful, fair, open-minded manner.

Sincerely,

Bonnie Reemsnyder,
Old Lyme.

Editor’s Note: The author is currently First Selectwoman of Old Lyme and also a candidate for the same position in the upcoming election.

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Comments

  1. Skip Sibley says:

    I agree with the summary as presented by our First Selectwoman. However, several important points were not included in her report. The consultant’s report is referred to as “The Canton” report. Following distribution of this report to our local department team, there was many questions and concerns. The content of this report represented significant changes to the way things had been run for many years. I’m not in disagreement with its content.
    What is upsetting to me was that there were 2 requests made by the local Police Union President (5/26/15 & 7/4/15) to sit down as a group and discuss the issues. I pleaded with our First Selectwoman to have such a meeting and to include our labor attorney to help work through the issues before things escalated. My pushing ended up against a dead end wall. My call to classify the 15 summertime grievances as “red flags” was called “unfair” by our First Selectwoman. I disagree, but that’s my opinion.
    In my extensive experience dealing with unions, ignoring their voices is a recipe for bigger problems. As I have stated all summer long, being at odds with our police department has been a losing proposition for our town. In addition to legal fees and time that’s already been spent, we really haven’t fixed the problem. As an example, I cite the recently filed Sound View Commission minutes for folks to read for themselves.(http://www.oldlyme-ct.gov/Pages/OldLymeCT_SoundviewMin/I052D56D9).
    Here we are 5 months after that first meeting request and there are still open issues with our local police team. Just ask them. I sincerely hope one of the first orders of business for the new BOS is to get this issue back on the table and resolved for the benefit of the Town and for our individual constables. That’s a win/win situation.

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