During the 2017 town election, First Selectwoman Reemsnyder floated her vision to regionalize the town’s police force with East Lyme. Her vision was revealed first in a local newspaper and came as a surprise to many, if not most, town residents. A few weeks later at the candidate’s debate, Reemsnyder boldly endorsed that plan.
Reemsnyder won her election and so police regionalization became a main agenda item. Consequently, she formed the Police Services Options Committee. Although I did not support her re-election bid, Reemsnyder appointed me to the committee and I applaud and thank her for my selection. The committee was comprised of the first selectwoman and nine concerned citizens with a broad array of background experiences. Although there was no formal chairperson, Reemsnyder served as the titular head of the committee.
As a committee, we defined our purpose and held monthly and sometimes twice-a-month meetings. We invited and heard very detailed presentations by a number of law enforcement professionals and elected officials. The committee reviewed a ream of information from the Connecticut Police Chiefs Association; the East Lyme Chief of Police; Portland’s First Selectwoman; the Portland Chief of Police and police officers; the Old Lyme Police Union Representative and Old Lyme Police Officers; and, the Connecticut State Police.
What we learned was that a plan to regionalize with East Lyme really meant that the Old Lyme Police Department would be dissolved. Old Lyme would lose its police autonomy and always be a minority stakeholder in the East Lyme Police Department. Old Lyme would be funding approximately one third of the East Lyme Police Department budget and most likely include underwriting one third of the renovation of their new police headquarters (formerly the Honeywell Building). Additionally, our patrol area would be cut from the present two districts to one. Also, that there may be times when there would not even be a police car in Old Lyme during day and business hours depending on the police needs of the regionalized area. Our police officers would lose their jobs and because of union issues they might never be hired by the East Lyme Police Department. In short, regionalizing police services with East Lyme, especially when that concept has never been done in this state, was not in the best interest of Old Lyme.
After many meetings culminating in perhaps a thousand hours of combined work among our members, our last meeting was on December 12, 2018. My gut says this: Perhaps Reemsnyder thought the committee would endorse her plan to regionalize police services. But as more information was learned the more untenable that plan became. So, instead of wrapping up the committee’s work and letting us draft our recommendations she let the committee go dormant.
I was astounded at the First Selectman’s debate when Reemsnyder answered a question about this committee. She answered that the committee gathered a lot of information and meets quarterly to discuss the policing needs of the town. If I were not so kind, I would say that her answer was a flat out lie. So, I will be kind and say that her statement was not accurate.
One of the reasons that I chose to run, as a first time candidate, for zoning commission is that I believe my time, and many of the committee co-members share this sentiment, was wasted. We are a small town and the bulk of all committee work is made up of citizen volunteers. The Police Services Options Committee worked diligently to explore the other types of police services that our neighboring towns have in place and whether one of those plans or a hybrid plan, to include regionalization, would work for our town. Our committee was never allowed to continue its work and make a recommendation.
Miller is a candidate for the Town of Old Lyme Zoning Commission