ROCKLAND — The Rockland Ad Hoc Police Review Committee voted Monday to recommend that the City Council create a permanent committee to review complaints from the public about the police department.

The Review Committee also is recommending that the City hire a full-time mental health professional for the department to respond to mental health and substance abuse crises.

The Committee met Sept. 19, its first meeting since a divided Rockland City Council gave them an additional three months to come up with recommendations. The Committee is tentatively set to hold a public forum on Monday, Oct. 24 to seek public comment on its recommendations.

The recommendation for a standing Citizen Review Committee came despite opposition from Police Chief Tim Carroll who told Councilors Sept. 12 that the Committee was “looking for a solution for a problem that doesn’t exist.”

The Committee was also divided on this recommendation during its Sept. 19 meeting. Supporters contended that having a committee to review citizen complaints would ensure the public is engaged in the oversight of the Rockland Police Department and would strengthen the relationship between the community and its police force.

“A community oversight committee for the town of Rockland can be an additional resource to look for solutions to community-wide public safety issues, solicit public feedback, and ultimately work together with the RPF to improve policing in Rockland,” the motion for the recommendation stated.

Member Dana Crane voiced support for the recommendation, saying this was an opportunity for the community to be involved.

Member Angela McIntyre said the standing committee could issue annual reports that would include positive information in addition to dealing with complaints.

Board member Emily Emmott urged the Committee not to make the recommendation.

“This is the time to move on. This is a bad idea,” she said.

Emmott said Rockland has a small department and that this recommendation means the city is not placing trust in its new police chief.

The Committee’s recommendation also calls for outreach to publicize how the public can make a complaint and the process used to respond to each complaint. The proposed system would also allow for anonymous complaints.

The Committee also voted to recommend the hiring of a mental health profession to help the department respond to calls that involve someone with a mental health problem.

The Committee also voted to call for community policing with face-to-face contact between police and the public.

“Mutual trust and respect between our police officers and our community is essential for effective law enforcement, Regular, friendly, and respectful face-to-face contact between the police and the public is a key means to that end. This is especially important for young people growing up in Rockland, in order that they will develop a positive relationship with law enforcement and feel that they are a part of a just community in which they are respected and can count on help from the police when it is needed. Therefore, the RPRC recommends that regular, face-to-face contact with the public, especially with young people, be a top priority for our police department,” the recommendation stated.

At the City Council’s Sept. 12 meeting, Chief Carroll pointed out the department already is heavily involved in community policing, reciting a lengthy list that includes school visits, Sand for Seniors, Meals on Wheels, a drug take-back program, and Narcan training.

The Council voted July 12, 2021, to create the ad-hoc police review committee to investigate ways to improve community policing in Rockland and report those recommendations to the City Council. The work was expected to take 12 months to complete, but the committee could ask for additional time. The Council voted 3-2 at its Sept. 12 meeting to allow the Committee an additional three months to formulate recommendations.

The committee was formed less than a year after a petition was filed with the Rockland City Council in August 2020 by a group calling for reallocating money from police to social services. That petition gathered 135 local signatures. Supporters of the department collected more signatures in response to the original petition.