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You get what you pay for

Posted: Sunday, May 27, 2012 12:00 am

Good news: Everything’s fine. Everything’s fine at the Meriden Police Department, I mean. The city manager, the police chief and other high officials are satisfied that the “independent” report submitted recently by attorney Thomas V. Daily puts to rest any questions about alleged brutality by Officer Evan Cossette, the chief’s son, and alleged unequal treatment within the department.

In fact, so final do the conclusions they seem to have reached seem to be, that Officer Cossette is already back on regular duty. (He spent about a year on desk duty after the allegations emerged, and the “independent” investigation has taken almost that long.)

Hmmm, I don’t think I’ve ever seen the word “independent” thrown around more times in one day than it was during Friday’s spin session — I mean news conference — at City Hall. And, lest we miss the point, the title of the report is “Independent investigation for City of Meriden of allegations advanced by Meriden police officers Brian Sullivan and Donald Huston regarding Meriden Police Department.” Get it?

But what does “independent” actually mean? Well, if you go to the dictionary, you’ll find words to this effect: “Free, not subject to control by others; unconstrained; not subject to bias or influence; not obsequious.” And don’t forget to factor in “even-handed,” because that’s the subtext; that’s what “independent” is really meant to conjure up in this case, I submit.

But — given that there are not just allegations involved, but actual lawsuits; and given that those lawsuits come not just from the two named officers, but also from several citizens; and given that those citizens are claiming not just brutality, but also violations of their federal civil rights; and given that those lawsuits name not just the Police Department and certain individuals, but also the City of Meriden — in what sense can this report possibly be considered “independent”?

That is, how can an investigator “who was hired by a defendant, the City of Meriden, which is paying his bill,” be independent? That was attorney Sally A. Roberts asking. She represents or has represented several of the people who are at legal odds with the MPD, so she’s not “independent” either. Then again, she doesn’t pretend to be.

Anyway, there’s no pattern of brutality. “As to the allegations of a pattern of excessive force by Officer Evan Cossette, my investigation indicated that there would be no reason that MPD management, including the Internal Affairs unit or the Deputy Chief would expect that there was such a pattern of excessive force,” Mr. Daily reports. Well, “no reason to expect” is certainly not the simple “no” that the city manager and the chief would naturally prefer, but it’ll have to do.

That’s good news, I guess. And so is this: Neither the deputy chief, nor anyone else in the department, it would seem, was ever “improperly influenced in rendering his decision because of Officer Cossette’s status as the son of Chief Cossette.” And “there was no express or implied pressure applied to” any of the police brass “to be any more lenient in regard to Officer Cossette’s investigations.”

And I’m pretty sure the same applies to the officers Mr. Daily interviewed at headquarters — with the Internal Affairs guy sitting right there. Surely they never felt any “express or implied pressure” to say or not say anything, and never feared any reprisals.

And the good news just won’t quit: Practically everybody Mr. Daily talked to “believed that the disciplinary process at MPD was fair and even handed.”

That’s not good news; it’s a miracle.

Conclusion: Everything’s fine at the MPD. Now let’s see what the state cops and the FBI have to say.

Reach Glenn Richter at grichter@record-journal.com or (203) 317-2222





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