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Police advisory board in Pittsfield nearly wiped out after all but one member resign

An entrance to the Pittsfield, Massachusetts, police station.
Nancy Eve Cohen
An entrance to the Pittsfield, Massachusetts, police station.

Five of of the six members of a Pittsfield, Massachusetts, police advisory and review board have resigned after learning they weren't allowed to review a police report investigating a shooting by an officer.

Ellen Maxon, who resigned as board chair, said members can't review the police investigation of the shooting death of 22-year-old Miguel Estrella because the report is not the result of a citizen's complaint, something the ordinance governing the board requires. That was the "tipping point" that led to the resignations, according to Maxon.

Maxon would like the board to do even more than review an investigation — such as provide input before police make a determination.

"That doesn't mean decide whether an officer should get fired. It doesn't mean to decide what the discipline is. But it's just to put another set of eyes on a situation," she said.

The board could file a public records request or have a citizen file a complaint in order to review the report, but Maxon said board members felt they shouldn't have to jump through hoops.

Maxon said the board was reconstituted after the2017 police shooting of Daniel Gillis.

The board is not set up to allow "us a good look at what maybe could have been done differently," Maxon said. "The whole system of this review board doesn't really open itself up to real change."

Pittsfield Mayor Linda Tyer did not respond to a request for an interview. But Tyer told The Berkshire Eagle that limits on the board's authority should not have been a surprise, because she said board members received training on the ordinance.

The only board member who didn't resign is Lt. Col. Thomas Grady with the Berkshire County sheriff's office.

Nancy Eve Cohen is a senior reporter focusing on Berkshire County. Earlier in her career she was NPR’s Midwest editor in Washington, D.C., managing editor of the Northeast Environmental Hub and recorded sound for TV networks on global assignments, including the war in Sarajevo and an interview with Fidel Castro.
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