Police code changes spark debate among Crestwood aldermen

By EVAN YOUNG

Some Crestwood aldermen recently spoke out against municipal code changes their colleagues proposed because they thought the amendments were meticulous and didn’t reflect an advisory board’s suggestions.

The Board of Aldermen recently approved the first reading of an ordinance that modifies the city’s police code based on recommendations from the Police Board — a citizen group that serves solely in an advisory capacity.

The first reading passed on a 7-1 vote; Ward 3 Alderman Paul Duchild was opposed.

Aldermen also approved at that meeting one amendment to the original ordinance and must wait until their next meeting, Tuesday, July 28, to hear a second reading of the amended ordinance, as required by the Crestwood Charter.

The Police Board reviewed the police code — Chapter 20 in the code book — earlier this year and presented on May 12 an ordinance containing a series of modifications it felt were necessary to reflect current practices.

Aldermen tabled discussion of the ordinance to a future meeting to give members a chance to review the proposed legislation.

At the time, Duchild and fellow Ward 3 Alderman Jerry Miguel indicated they planned to propose amendments to the ordinance, and the rest of the board agreed to consider them, according to a report from City Administrator Jim Eckrich.

However, when the issue came up June 23, aldermen shot down all but one of Duchild and Miguel’s amendments. Some of the aldermen’s proposed changes added to those outlined in the original ordinance; others completely reversed the Police Board’s recommendations.

Ward 2 Alderman Chris Pickel said not approving the Police Board’s modifications as first proposed in May was an “insult” to that group.

“We had a Police Board review this code, make recommendations, spend however many hours of time doing that, and essentially what this Board (of Aldermen) is now saying to them is: ‘Thanks, but we don’t appreciate what you did,'” he told his fellow aldermen. “I think that’s a dangerous precedent for this board to be making, and I’ve made this point many times since I’ve been on the board. We have mayors and aldermen who are elected to do a job. We have city staff that are hired to do a job. We have residents who are appointed to do a job, to serve on committees. And I think we have to allow them to do this job.

“And to think that five people on the Police Board reviewed this, that this issue came before this Board (of Aldermen) previously and the majority of this board was comfortable with that, to think that all that work is for naught at this point to me is an insult.”

Some of the Police Board’s original code recommendations were:

• Modify Police Board members’ terms to run concurrently with the mayor’s term.

• Allow the Police Board aldermanic representative to designate an alternative representative to attend meetings.

• Modify the code to read that the Police Board will meet “regularly” instead of “monthly.”

• Stipulate that Police Department and police chief compensation shall be provided for within the city’s budget instead of a specific ordinance or resolution.

• Modify the police chief’s requirement to report to the Police Board and Board of Aldermen to “as requested” instead of on a “monthly” basis.

After aldermen approved the first reading of the ordinance, Duchild made a motion, seconded by Miguel, to approve an amendment with the following changes:

• The terms of the chairman and two members of the Police Board will run concurrently with the mayor’s three-year term. “The remaining two citizen Police Board members shall have a three-year term of office and shall be up for appointment, one in each of the off years between mayoral elections. Upon passage of this section, the two citizen members from the even-number wards shall serve the terms that are concurrent with the mayor’s three-year term. The two citizen members from odd-number wards shall serve the off mayoral election year terms.”

• Acknowledging a suggestion from Ward 1 Alderman Darryl Wallach, clarify that the aldermanic representative’s “designee,” who would be present at Police Board meetings if the appointed representative or the mayor could not, “shall be a current alderman.”

• Require the Police Board to meet “at least quarterly,” because “regularly” was too vague and because both the Fire Board and the Park Board meeting clauses require them to meet quarterly.

• Change the same of Section 20-A, subsection “e” from “compensation” to “allowance for expenses,” because the former title “implies the Police Board is receiving compensation for their work.” Also under that subsection, replace “provided by the city” — concerning the allowance — with “approved in advance in writing by the police chief and city administrator.”

Duchild’s amendment failed on a 5-3 vote, with Duchild, Miguel and Ward 2 Alderman Jeff Schlink voting “yes.”

Duchild made another motion, seconded by Miguel, to approve an amendment that would completely delete the section in the code outlining police force compensation. Their intent was to remove this section and add a “general, yet specific section to the code to cover all city employees” in order to “reduce ambiguity about pay changes, simplify the code book so that all employees will be covered by one section and allow the Board of Aldermen greater oversight of one of the city’s largest expenses.”

This amendment failed on a 6-2 vote with Duchild and Miguel voting in favor.

Duchild motioned for a third amendment, this time to change the timing of the police chief’s report to the Board of Aldermen to “at least quarterly” instead of “from time to time.” Again, the former language was “too vague,” and quarterly reports would give residents “an opportunity for an update and to ask questions.”

The amendment failed, 5-3; Duchild, Miguel and Schlink voted in approval.

Duchild’s fourth and final motion to amend the police code — to change the section on secondary employment of officers to switch the authority to approve secondary employment from the Police Board to the police chief — did win approval.

Seven board members voted in favor of the last amendment. Ward 4 Alderman and Board President John Foote abstained — and also made clear his opinion on the evening’s lengthy discussion.

“I am a little bit concerned,” he said. “… We’re into a fairly heavy level of detail here, and I would kind of wonder if this is the best use of our time to get into the minutia of trying to run that board. They’re volunteers, they’re experienced people. The police chief is a very knowledgeable, experienced person. And here we are, running that board, down to the ‘nth’ detail. It seems to me this is not a good use of our time.”

Foote later added, “I appreciate Aldermen Miguel and Duchild’s ability to define and express themselves in English. I have found many cases where people wrote very well, put it in English and it’s been debated for a couple hundred years, and that is the Constitution of the United States. I just get a little bit upset when we start debating down into the minutia again. I wish there was a system that would be a little more direct and get these things headed out before this board has to waste — excuse me, use — time to chase down these little details. And I know that everything is built on good details, but it doesn’t seem (to be) the best use of the board’s time. That’s an opinion.”