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Newton Aldermen Say Women Underrepresented on Police Chief Search Committee

Home-rule legislation specifies that the city should make "every effort to include not less than four women" on the police chief search committee.

Six Newton aldermen voted Tuesday night against an item outlining the members selected for the Police Chief Search Committee, arguing that females were not properly represented in the group. 

Ward 2 Alderman-at-Large Marcia Johnson brought forward the issue, saying that she would have expected Mayor Setti Warren to consider more females for the 10-person committee. 

"I was quite disappointed to see the limited number of females on the search committee given the challenges of this department," Johnson said.

The full board eventually passed the item 16-6, with Aldermen Deb Crossley, Vicki Danberg, Ted Hess-Mahan, Amy Mah Sangiolo and Greg Schwartz joining Johnson on the negative vote. Aldermen Carleton Merrill and Jay Ciccone were absent from the meeting. 

Earlier this month, Warren and the Board of Aldermen appointed ten members to the committee. Out of the ten members, two are female.

The process by which the city conducts its police chief search is outlined in Chapter 279 of the Acts of 1992. This home rule legislation specifies what type of representatives should be appointed to the search committee and how to carry out the search process.

According to the law, "every effort shall be made to include not less than four women on the selection committee."

The search committee members include:

  • Alderman Jay Ciccone, Jr. Chair of the Public Safety & Transportation Committee and a retired police officer from the town of Sherborn
  • Gary Bearfield, a Newton resident and Mass. State Police lieutenant 
  • Officer Eddie LaValle of the Newton Police Association
  • Seana Gaherin, co-owner of Dunn Gaherin's, a local business executive
  • Laura Holt, a local lawyer
  • Honorable Conrad J. Bletzer, a local retired judge
  • Chief James Hicks of the Mass. Retired Chiefs Association
  • Associate Professor Nathan Phillips, a Newton resident
  • Darrell Settles, a Newton resident
  • David MacDonald, a representative from the Newton Superiors Police Association

The Public Safety & Transportation Committee discussed the makeup of the committee at its Jan. 9, 2013 meeting.

During the meeting, committee members encouraged the search committee to consider both internal and external candidates for the police chief job. There was no other discussion on the item and the committee approved the search committee members 6-0, with Alderman Ciccone recused and Alderman Brian Yates not voting. 

Johnson clarified during Tuesday night's full board meeting that she would have liked to voice her opinion at Public Safety & Transportation meeting on January 9, but was unable to attend due to a business obligation.

Once the search committee forms, it recommends five to seven candidates for the chief of police position, according to Section 7 of the law. The mayor then appoints from that pool of candidates. 

If a candidate is not found, a new search is started, the law says.

Mayor Setti Warren fired Newton Police Chief Matthew Cummings in October, following an investigation and hearing that ruled Cummings had kicked and verbally harassed his former secretary, behavior "unbecoming a police chief." 

Since Cummings was put on administrative leave in August 2012, Captain Howard Mintz has been acting police chief. Mintz previously led the department's Traffic Bureau. 

What do you think about the search committee and the aldermen vote? Tell us in the comments section below.

leonore linsky January 24, 2013 at 06:07 PM
I think at least 1/2 the search committee should have been women. After all isn't that close to the makeup of the town. I also hope they do not select an internal candidate. From what has been going on I think there are lots of issues of inappropriateness in the police department. Its the 2000's they need to get a grip and realize times have changed and that "old boy behavior" is not appropriate and shameful to a town such as Newton
W Gannon January 24, 2013 at 09:42 PM
Looks like an appropraite group Do we have enough eskimos on the board?
Robert L. Cerra January 24, 2013 at 09:56 PM
I am confident that the search committee will not let this process spiral out of control to satisfy some of exterme views as expressed on this blog.
Nate January 26, 2013 at 12:05 AM
On the blog and from the alderpersons.

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