Eleven year old Lauren Messert sat in the front row of the Police Commission meeting last night, petition in hand, awaiting her turn to speak up for the cause she has fought for during the last month. Beside her sat her friend Maya and her father Robert Messert. Lauren collected 685 signatures which she presented during the public comments portion of the evening.
Police Commissioner Nick Ellis said that Chief Jeffery Finch "has the right to change, eliminate or do whatever with the program but he felt it was important to get the pulse from the Superintendent, the First Selectman, and principals of the schools" before the DARE program ended. Ellis added that the Chief "went above and beyond" what he had to do.
Finch read a letter he had written that stated other wealthy communities were cutting the out-dated program and that proved this decision wasn't based on money. Finch said he discussed the decision with the Police Captain, the Police Commission, Superintendent Dr. Gary Chesley and First Selectman Matthew Knickerbockers who all agreed that the program was outdated and it was time to move on to something new.
DeLuca presented the Police Commission with two e-mails from two principals, which were not read to the public, that stated administrators supported the program.
Concern was raised that perhaps the Commission was not presented with all the information before making the decision which led member Bill Ochs to make a motion to table the decision until they had more time to read through and discuss the materials. The motion was seconded by McCollam, however the three other Commission members voted no.
Finch said that the First Selectman discussed with him research that showed the program was not effective.
Ellis said he was excited about helping kids on the middle school level and to stat some fresh, new programs which the principal embraces.
Chief Finch closed his letter by saying, "Let's try something new. Let's return to some traditional values of being a youth officer rather than simply lecturing about bad behavior and bad choices."
There seemed to be a debate regarding the effectiveness/usefulness of the program that requires research...more later.