The Chelsea City Council voted unanimously to recommend that the police chief rescind the traffic tickets given to protestors this summer for impeding traffic and to refund the cost during a three-hour Zoom meeting Tuesday night.
With more than 100 people in the Zoom meeting, 20 spoke during public comment, and most were in favor of having the charges dismissed against the protestors as well as the hiring an outside firm to do an audit of police operations, another agenda item.
(If you would like to listen to all of those comments, please click here.)
For months, the City Council has listened to extensive public outcry about bias, bigotry and systemic racism in the city and in the schools. The elected officials have held several town hall meetings and work sessions to listen to community thoughts and concerns. The elected officials have been discussing ways to mend the rift and distrust among some community members and its police department, and to work toward positive change and healing.
About 14 people who were issued tickets following the summer Black Lives Matter protests for blocking traffic were in District Court on Jan. 25. These tickets were issued after the chief repeatedly asked the protestors to stay in the park or on the sidewalks or get a permit to protest in the streets.
Following a lengthy discussion, during which elected officials asked City Attorney Peter Flintoft numerous questions about the legality of what they were trying to accomplish, Flintoft cautioned them that the City Charter had to guide their decision. He told Council Members that if they “recommended” the chief do so, rather than “direct” him, which is outside of the elected officials authority, it would comply with the City Charter.
(Please see the city charter at the end of this story that accurately explains the roles and responsibilities of the city council, the mayor as well as the Police Department.)
City Council Members discussed the fact that by approving this recommendation, it was setting precedent and there was a possibility that they could open themselves up for possible unintended consequences in the future. But the hope was that by approving this recommendation it would be a step forward toward change and healing within the community.
“I will follow the City Charter, Oath of Office, department policies and procedures and the law,” Chief Ed Toth said Wednesday.
On Feb. 22, a judge is scheduled to make a decision on the case in District Court.
The City Council also unanimously voted to direct city staff to put together a request for proposal from an outside firm to look at all aspects of the police department operations.
(Publisher’s note: This is the first of several stories from this 3-hour meeting.)