More than 50 Oak Creek residents packed Town Hall on Thursday night for another heated discussion about their embattled Police Department and its chief, Russ Caterinicchio.
The Town Board ended the long discussion by directing two of its trustees to hold a meeting with local business owners and present the results of the meeting to the full board at its next regular meeting.
The decision came about a week after 25 business owners signed a public apology to their customers for what they allege are problems caused by the Oak Creek Police Department.
Caterinicchio remained silent throughout the discussion and offered his opinion only when asked by the trustees.
Janine Pierce, owner of Brand Spankin' Used, made an impassioned plea to the trustees to take action.
"We have very serious issues going on here," she said after refusing trustee requests to remove her hat and telling the board to not interrupt her. "If we don't fix what is going on right now in our town we won't have one."
David Bonfiglio, owner of Bonfiglio Drug, submitted a four-page letter to the board and read portions of it during the meeting.
In his letter, Bonfiglio complimented the good work done by Caterinicchio but listed several problems he has with the police department, including officers being "too aggressive in regards to traffic control" and a decline in business as a result of customers avoiding town because of the police force.
Bonfiglio later was asked to lead the discussion between business leaders and trustees. He expressed optimism that the smaller forum would bring effective changes.
"I'm getting a sense from this board now that they're willing to listen and they're all now buying into the fact that we have an issue," he said. "If we have an opportunity to, as a body of business owners, to speak to the issues we see with two members ... we can get probably a whole lot more done in a workable mindset than we can when everyone is throwing and angry and upset and irritated."
"By my count, this will be the 10th meeting or change of the complaint process or letters that have been brought up concerning (the police)," Town Trustee and Police Commissioner Dave Ege said. "Can we please make it the last one?"
Resident Bernard Gagne said he was skeptical about the planned meeting between trustees and business owners because he attended previous forums regarding police issues and had seen no results.
"Who here was at the other police forums? Did you ever get a reply; did you ever get a response? Did you ever see any response from our hard work and our time invested? No," he said as he was interrupted by one police department supporter who said she had seen change.
"The police forums ... the first one a lot of people showed up and we had some beneficial dialog," he said. "But it didn't really work; we didn't really get a response. The second forum was a joke."
The board discussed the option of bringing business owners to meet with the full board or meeting with only two members but decided on two members because it would not constitute an official meeting. When the vote passed, there was a smattering of applause from the audience.
The board also discussed the Police Department's standard operating procedures and their conflict with the rules and regulations put in place by the board.
Ege told the board that in several instances, particularly in the use of Tasers, the standard operating procedures adopted by the Police Department did not fall in line with the rules and regulations approved by the trustees.
The board previously was told by Caterinicchio that it could not see the procedures because of security concerns, but Caterinicchio revised his statement. He instead said that many parts of the procedures can be viewed by the trustees, but other sections should remain private. He offered several ways the board could consider viewing the documents, including passing a new ordinance or signing notarized confidentiality agreements.
The board eventually voted to allow police commissioners Ege and Chuck Wisecup, who did not attend Thursday's meeting, to view both sets of rules and reconcile the differences.
Relating to the use of Tasers, the board was informed that the District Attorney's Office is investigating the July 19 arrest of Kathy "Cargo" Rodeman, and the board expects to hear updates next week.