The City Council held a four-hour online meeting on Monday – the third meeting in a row to stretch late into the night – and covered scores of topics, addressing police matter, internal conflicts between councilors and new construction guidelines
The Council had voted unanimously for Councilor Gerly Adrien’s request to have Chief Steven Mazzie and Police Union President Jermaine Bellard appear before an online Council meeting to discuss policies regarding use of force and reporting such things. Also, Bellard – who is a certified trainer – reported on training done by the Everett Police.
“I wanted to know what policies we have going on in the police force and I also wanted to make sure they are the best policies for our residents,” said Adrien.
Chief Mazzie said the four requests were covered in two major EPD policies, including the Use of Force Policy and the Use of Force Reporting Policy.
“Obviously, we have started looking at our policies over the last several weeks,” he said. “We have looked at our Use of Force…to see if we need to make amendments to it.”
Already, the chief said they have changed their policies to more readily define de-escalation of situations – using more specific language and including it in the policy and the rules and regulations.
“We tried to build some redundancy on that because stresses to officers the importance of it,” he said. “I do want to make sure people understand these techniques of strangleholds or choke holds are not trained or taught in Massachusetts…Strangleholds and choke holds have never been trained and taught here and so they were never contained in our Use of Force policy. We decided to take it a step further and put it in there that it was not to be used as a compliance technique in non-deadly force encounters.”
Mazzie said they – as well as Mayor Carlo DeMaria – are continuing to look at their policies and policing strategies under the proclamation last week by the mayor of racism being a public health issue.
As they do implement these immediate changes – which were done on June 15 – and any other new one, it will require training, the chief said.
“You don’t just change a policy and that’s it,” he said.
That’s where training comes in, and Union President Bellard is in charge of officer training in the EPD now. Bellard said the state requires 40 hours of training per year, but the EPD routinely does far more than that. Much of that is in the classroom, he said, with about six hours per year devoted to actual physical technique training.
“We’re required to do 40 hours per year, but usually go over that and do more than the minimum training hours,” he said. “When it comes to the Use of Force and defensive tactics, each officer has six hours of training to include training for use of force as a last resorts and practicing verbal techniques and using words to de-escalate.”
Firearm training is a separate training and subject, Bellard said.
Mazzie said officers also train on topics picked by the state police chiefs and law enforcement organizations. That includes every officer being trained on “Mental Health 101” to prepare them for dealing with those in the field who might be dealing with mental health issues and not able to comply. They are also trained thoroughly in suicide prevention, how to slow confrontations down, stress indicators, violent extremism, racial/cultural bias and bullying on social media.
•ADRIEN VS. DIFLORIO
It is clear that Council President Rosa DiFlorio and Councilor Adrien have come to an impasse when it comes to getting along or even civil discourse – with both on Monday night entering into impassioned speeches about how the other was disrespecting them.
There has been a strained relationship between the two since inauguration night back in January when Adrien refused to vote for DiFlorio as Council President because she wasn’t officially asked for her vote. As the only councilor not voting for DiFlorio, it created a natural tension.
On Monday night, during a piece regarding requests for information from the schools, Adrien lost her patience with DiFlorio, who was interrupting her as she displayed her disdain for the ruling to not allow the motion.
“I will speak and use my time,” said Adrien. “Do not cut me off. You don’t cut anyone else off.”
Later, DiFlorio alleged the same treatment when Adrien interrupted her.
“I’m 65 years old; you need to have respect,” she said. “Plus, you raising $2,000 (to help people with groceries) is against ethics.”
At that, Adrien demanded an apology.
“I request and apology,” she said. “That was out of line. It was not ok…You accused me of an ethics violation.”
No apology came.
•MATEWSKY PASSES CONSTRUCTION ORDINANCE
Councilor Wayne Matewsky was able to codify and get first passage of a City ordinance that would roll back the end of construction hours from 9 p.m. to 7 p.m. – and prohibit work from taking place on Sundays.
The ordinance leaves work hours Monday through Saturday from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.
“Sunday is a day of rest, or it used to be,” he said. “This is only for residential areas, not commercial areas…It’s a quality of life issue and brought up because of Chestnut Street where a guy worked until 10 p.m. or 11 p.m. It’s not painting or landscaping, but construction. When the police are called, they can now fine them and stop the work…After 9 p.m. at night, you shouldn’t be re-doing your roof, I’ve got news for you.”
Matewsky said the policy already exists for anyone who gets a permit or variance from the Zoning Board, and he hopes to codify it for all of the City. He said officers called to a scene would have to assess the situation and use common sense if it’s just a neighborhood dispute.
Councilor Adrien said she was worried it could disproportionately affect people of color and incite racism, particularly with the police having to enforce it.
“This is about construction for any people,” said Matewsky. “This isn’t about racism. I don’t care who you are, we don’t want you working after 7 p.m. or on Sundays.”
Emergency work, as determined by the Building Inspector, would still be allowed under the ordinance. The ordinance will come up for a final vote at the next Council meeting in July.
•SCHOOL DEPARTMENT INFO RECALLED
A controversial measure to call the School Department and the School Superintendent before the Council for more information was recalled and defeated, after having passed last meeting.
Councilor Adrien had called for information about online learning to be disseminated to the Council in a meeting before the Council by the School Committee and superintendent. That has been done in Boston where there are regular updates.
However, other councilors felt the information was already being shared on weekly calls with the administration and schools – which Adrien has said she cannot participate in due to her school schedule. It is also not within the power of the Everett City Council to call either the superintendent or School Committee to a meeting to give out information. Boston schools are unique in their accountability to City government in that they do not have an elected School Committee – it is appointed by their mayor – and they also have a superintendent appointed by the mayor. In Everett, the schools are far more independent and are run by elected officials.
Several councilors called for reconsideration of the matter after it was narrowly approved last meeting.
Councilor Peter Napolitano said the information is important, but Adrien needs to seek it from the School Committee at their meetings or through an information request. He said in his many years on the Council, such requests of the schools have been reconsidered a few times.
Councilor Michael McLaughlin said he agreed that she should have the information, but needed to go through other channels.
Councilor Stephanie Martins said she felt the request was a personal attack on the new superintendent.
Adrien denied that, saying she is concerned about students who may be left behind due to lack of internet, improper special education plans or language barriers.
•WEHNER PARK, WASTE OF MONEY?
Councilor Fred Capone got an update on Wehner Park on Monday, finding out the $1 million rehabilitation was fully funded and ready to be complete in the fall.
Capone said he feels like the renovation was unnecessary, and probably a mistake given the current circumstances where dramatic job cuts are looming at City Hall.
“I have always said we were making pretty, prettier, at that park,” he said. “And at a cost of $1 million…This is $1 million to a park we didn’t need to spend money on and now people are talking about layoffs and losing jobs. We need to have more discipline as a City Council. I’m disheartened we spent $1 million on a park that didn’t need it.”
•COUNCIL VOTES DOWN INFRASTRUCTURE BORROWING
Chief Financial Officer Eric Demas appeared before the Council on Monday to request $3 million in new borrowing that would fund water infrastructure work and street/sidewalk work through the spring, but the Council rejected the bid and left critical work now unfunded.
It was a surprise move, in fact.
The Capital Improvement Plan (CIP) usually features several million dollars in infrastructure work and other projects, with a typical expenditure at more than $20 million. In fact, the upcoming CIP calls for more than $20 million in projects, but Demas said the financial times don’t allow them to be comfortable to bring that kind of spending to the Council.
So, they had asked for a borrowing of $3 million to do only the most critical work. Water work was to be done one streets like Green, Vine, Wedgewood and Morris, among others. Sidewalk/Paving was to be done on Appleton, Floyd, Hampshire, Revere, Spring and Wyllis.
It was a vote that required eight affirmative votes, but the Council was only able to come up with 7. Councilor Fred Capone voted against it, leaving the measure defeated. Several councilors recused themselves because of conflicts of interest, including Michael McLaughlin, Gerly Adrien and Mike Marchese. There was not an opportunity to bring it back for reconsideration.
•NO SPECIAL COMMITTEE
Councilor Gerly Adrien asked for a special Council committee to be formed to look at race and equity issues that come before the Council, but had the matter voted down by her colleagues – as well as getting a long speech by Councilor Wayne Matewsky, who took offense to Adrien saying some people consider Everett City Hall a “racist place.”
The committee request failed 1-9, but the news was Matewsky’s discussion, saying he had never heard of City Hall being a racist place. He said Everett is a pretty good place and people are taking that for granted.
“City Hall being a racist place, I’ve just never heard that,” he said. “No one has ever told me that. If the councilor knows of someone who is acting in a racist way, she should inform human resources and take care of that problem…Maybe there is racism in other places, but I don’t think I’ve heard that about Everett. Everett is a pretty nice place, and I think people are taking that for granted.”
There was no rebuttal to his discussion.