Rockland Police Department Credit: Lauren Abbate / BDN

A police oversight committee will be formed in Rockland to examine how the department operates in an attempt to give the public insight into the department and determine if any improvements can be made.

In 2020, the city received a petition to begin defunding the Rockland Police Department. Mayor Ed Glaser said that is not the ultimate goal of the committee being created, but that every large city department can benefit from a review.

The Rockland City Council discussed the creation of the committee at a workshop Monday night where councilors and residents voiced support for the committee.

The city council will appoint volunteers to the committee after a community-wide forum is held on the issue of local policing to determine what the public would like to know about the Rockland Police Department and how they would like to see things improve. A date for the forum has not yet been set.

“It doesn’t have to be antagonistic towards anyone really, the police deserve the same dignity that we treat any other department or employees with,” City Councilor Nate Davis said. “That being said, I hope this committee slays a whole herd of sacred cows.”

Glaser said his hope is to have the volunteer committee — made up of appointed Rockland residents — do its review of the police department over the next year, so that they can make recommendations to the city council in advance of the next budget season.

While the initial oversight committee would only be tasked with doing their work during that time, potential recommendations by the committee could result in the formation of a permanent oversight committee.

The Rockland Police Department is one of the city’s largest expenses. The 18-member department cost the city about $2,177,000 million last year. Though the current proposed budget for the upcoming fiscal year is down to about $2,092,000, it does include funding for the department to purchase body cameras.

A petition to defund the Rockland Police Department was submitted last summer in the wake of nationwide unrest surrounding the death of George Floyd, an unarmed Black man, at the hands of a Minneapolis police officer, which sparked a broader movement across the country demanding police accountability. Last month, Derek Chauvin, the officer who killed Floyd, was convicted of murder and manslaughter.

Angela McIntyre, who organized the petition effort, said at a meeting Monday that she was glad to see that the city was creating an oversight committee to examine how the police department operates.

McIntrye, and others who spoke in support of the committee, said examining data on police calls and stops is necessary to understand if officers ever act with bias, racial or otherwise.

City councilors also expressed interest in having the committee examine the types of calls the police department responded to, such as instances involving mental health and substance use crises, and if another agency might be able to better assist on those calls.

Other areas that the committee might look into, according to Glaser, include hiring and training practices.

“I see this as an opportunity for us to look at what we have for a police department, celebrate the strengths and look at the weaknesses,” Glaser said.