ROCKLAND — There was heated debate at the Rockland Ad Hoc Police Review Committee meeting held Monday evening.

The dispute erupted two weeks before the advisory panel is expected to issue its final report to the Rockland City Council.

Committee member Joseph Steinberger accused other committee members of coming to the panel with agendas that included the initial petition to defund the police. He said the agenda for the online petition initiated by committee member Angela McIntyre is almost exactly what the recommendations are by the committee. He asked how many committee members signed the petition from 2020 and said McIntyre and members Dana Crane and Jan Morrill knew each other before joining the committee.

“I feel this is very political and will be divisive for the community,” Steinberger said.

He called the committee members who have come up with these recommendations a “cabal.”

Steinberger said he felt like he has wasted his time during the past year since minds were already decided. The report is not a valid expression of the public intent, he contended.

The comments by Steinberger were not well received by the remainder of the committee.

“I’m flabbergasted you would bring this up now,” board member Emily Emmott said, noting the committee has been meeting for a year.

Board member Dana Crane said the petition was the impetus for the creation of the committee.

Committee member Jan Morrill told Steinberger that if he had a problem with the makeup of the committee he should have spoken to former Mayor Ed Glaser who appointed the members.

Emmott said she was taken aback by Steinberger’s comments and that he was not speaking properly toward other members.

Committee member Brian Messing said Steinberger was incorrect in contending that the report is the same as the petition. He said there is no reduction in the police force recommended but instead an augmentation.

Steinberger said he had to leave the Zoom meeting after a half hour and instructed the committee to cast “no” votes for him on every recommendation when they come up for votes.

“Just go,” Emmott told him.

After he left the meeting, she said “Why is he like this? He is always like this all the time.”

The committee will meet again 3 p.m. Monday, Dec. 5. The Rockland City Council agenda for its Monday evening, Dec. 5 meeting lists a presentation from the Committee on the agenda. The meeting begins at 5:30 p.m. at City Hall.

The committee’s recommendations include that the City Council create a permanent committee to review complaints from the public about the police department; that the City hire a full-time mental health professional for the department to respond to mental health and substance abuse crises; community policing — the RPD should continue to participate in community events to the extent practical; community liaison — the RCC should establish a full-time liaison position to assist with behavioral health, substance abuse, and homelessness issues; arrest diversion — the RPD should support and continue implementation of policies to reduce recidivism, drug/alcohol-related arrests, and those for low-level and non-violent offenses; creating a crisis response task force — the RCC should form a task force to research establishing a crisis response team to address mental health and substance abuse calls; and a feedback mechanism — the RCC should refine the existing RPD praise and complaint system and expand it to cover all city departments.

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 Rockland City Council gave the committee in September an additional three months to come up with recommendations.

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.