Rockland Police Department Credit: Lauren Abbate / BDN

ROCKLAND, Maine — The city is holding a forum on Monday to determine what residents would like to know about how the Rockland Police Department operates as the City Council prepares to form a police oversight committee.

The forum is being held via Zoom from 6-8 p.m. on June 21. Information gathered at the meeting will help officials craft the mission for  the city’s first police oversight committee, which will be formed sometime this year to review the operations of the police department and determine if any improvements can be made.

“A committee like that can only be successful if you give them defined goals, you don’t leave it open to, ‘Oh, just discuss the police department,” Rockland Mayor Ed Glaser said. “What this meeting is about is asking the community, what are the questions to the answers we would like to have.”

The creation of a police oversight committee comes nearly one year after the city received a petition to defund the Rockland Police Department, which received about 135 signatures from Rockland residents. Following this petition, about 300 Rockland residents signed another petition in support of the department.

The original petition was submitted last summer in the wake of nationwide unrest surrounding the murder 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. In April, Derek Chauvin, the officer who killed Floyd, was convicted of murder and manslaughter.

Glaser, who brought forward the idea of forming a police oversight committee, said the committee’s creation is partly related to the petition.

“It certainly is part of the push of why we need to do it now,” Glaser said.

Glaser said reviews of every city department should be conducted from time to time. He points out that the city has heard arguments for years that the police department is too large and too costly.

“I don’t know if that’s true or not, but that’s always been one of the arguments. So that’s maybe one of the things to look at,” Glaser said. “It just so happens that we’ve been talking about the police department for a long time and there is a national push to do something like this. But it’s something we need to do with every department.”

While the initial oversight committee would only be tasked with doing their work for a temporary review period, 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 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.

Following Monday’s forum, Glaser said the council will likely review the questions that were generated to see if there are “themes that the community wants this committee to address.” The committee will then be formed through an ordinance amendment process, which Glaser said could take a couple of months. Volunteers will then be selected to serve on the committee.