Pittsfield City Council approves new Police Advisory Board

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PITTSFIELD — The City Council on Tuesday approved a new board that will work to bridge gaps between the Police Department and the community.

Mayor Linda Tyer proposed forming the Police Advisory Board about six months ago, in response to concerns from residents, many of whom argued that a citizens board could offer residents a chance to keep police power in check and to advise the department on important issues.

The board will publicly review complaints filed against officers after completion of an internal investigation by the department, and then will make policy recommendations based on that review. The board also will serve as a sounding board for the department on public issues.

Ward 6 Councilor John Krol cast the sole dissenting vote, arguing in subcommittee meetings that the board should have the types of independent powers that those in other communities do.

Tyer said she hopes to begin making appointments to the 11-member board during the next City Council meeting.

"We've had a lot of interest," Tyer said after the meeting.

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Other business

Councilors took a first look at a proposal from Councilors Chris Connell and Melissa Mazzeo to set aside 50 percent of marijuana taxes for roadwork in the city.

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Connell said the new revenue could mean that the city wouldn't have to borrow in order to do road paving each year.

While some councilors said they were hesitant to "pigeonhole" money for a certain purpose, Connell argued that "this gives us a tool to reduce our long-term debt."

The measure was referred to the council's Finance Committee for further vetting.

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Councilors also unanimously approved a petition requesting that the City Council attend cultural competency training. The original request asked for annual training, but some councilors found that excessive, and so the council voted to strike the time frame.

The petition was filed by Dennis Powell and Shirley Edgerton, president and board member, respectively, of the Berkshire branch of the NAACP, and sponsored by Councilors Helen Moon and Donna Todd Rivers.

Rivers said she has done the training and found it helpful.

"It's made a difference in my life," she said.

Amanda Drane can be contacted at adrane@berkshireeagle.com, @amandadrane on Twitter, and 413-496-6296.


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