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Leader of police advisory panel 'shocked' to be denied access to internal Pittsfield police report on fatal shooting

Two people embrace during a rally (copy) (copy)

Friends, family and supporters gather in April in Pittsfield as part of a rally in support of Miguel Estrella, who was shot and killed by city police March 25. 

PITTSFIELD — Members of the Police Advisory and Review Board won’t be allowed to review the Pittsfield Police Department’s report on the shooting of Miguel Estrella.

The board’s chair, Ellen Maxon, said the board would not be allowed to review the report because it did not fall under the board’s authority, as established by city ordinance.

Police Chief Michael Wynn said in an email that a determination was made by the city solicitor’s office that the board did not have authority to review the police department’s “Force Investigation” into the Estrella case.

Maxon quoted the part of the ordinance that allows the board to review investigative reports: “To review all final investigative reports regarding citizen complaints.”

Because a formal complaint was never filed with the department, the board won’t get the chance to review it, she said she has learned.

“I’m highly disappointed and shocked by this revelation,” Maxon said.

Pittsfield Police Chief Michael Wynn (copy) (copy)

Pittsfield Police Chief Michael Wynn responds to questions at the press conference held by Berkshire District Attorney Andrea Harrington regarding the findings in the fatal March 25 shooting of Miguel Estrella by a Pittsfield police officer. 

Wynn was not present at the review board’s meeting Tuesday, as he was occupied with the response to a shooting at Cumberland Farms on First Street. Wynn’s absence also delayed discussion of the state’s body camera regulations, which was an item on the agenda.

Police shot and killed Estrella on March 25 during a response to a 9-1-1 call in which responding officers reported feeling threatened. Estrella was in the midst of a mental health crisis and had a knife at the time of the shooting.

The Berkshire District Attorney’s Office found the shooting justified in a report issued Aug. 5. The Pittsfield Police Department’s report also found the shooting justified.

Estrella’s death became a rallying cry in Pittsfield for reform, causing community members to call for change in police response to mental health crises.

Community members present at the meeting Tuesday were given a chance to comment on agenda items as they were presented, including the news that the board would not be allowed to review the internal PPD Estrella report.

“I think it’s quite comical that the Police Advisory and Review Board isn’t allowed to review a police document,” said community member Kelan O’Brien during the meeting.

Community leader Kamaar Taliaferro criticized the requirement for a family to file a police complaint, and went on to question the efficacy and purpose of the review board itself.

“In the aftermath of violently losing a loved one to police policy, it is at best naive, and at worst cruel, to require that a family files a citizen’s complaint [at the police station] … yet this is the process by which PARB’s oversight role would be activated,” Taliaferro said.

One community member present at the meeting offered to file a complaint to allow the board to review the investigation. Maxon said that it would likely not result in much, since the case is now closed.

Matt Martinez can be reached at mmartinez@berkshireeagle.com.

News Reporter

Matt Martinez is a news reporter at The Berkshire Eagle. He worked at Milwaukee Neighborhood News Service, graduated Marquette University. He is a former Report for America corps member.

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