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A New Haven public defender will be stepping into an interim role as inspector general for Hartford’s Civilian Police Review Board, a new role tasked with investigating police use of force among other duties.
Beth Merkin will serve as the interim inspector general while Mayor Luke Bronin, civilian review board Chair Eric Crawford and City Council President Maly D. Rosado continue to search for a permanent inspector general to oversee and act as a neutral review to police department internal investigations.
“The appointment of our first Inspector General is a significant decision, and I strongly believe we need to consider more candidates to find the right individual,” Crawford said, in a written statement Thursday. “The Inspector General will play a critical role in supporting the CPRB, providing administrative support, overseeing investigations, and earning the confidence of the community and all stakeholders.”
Merkin isn’t expected to be a candidate for the permanent position and will soon step down from the public defender’s office to fill the interim role. She spent 34 years of her career at the New Haven Judicial District, including 30 years as a senior assistant public defender and the last four as a supervisory public defender.
She also served as the supervisory attorney to interns and has taught as a trainer, lecturer and presenter for incoming attorneys since 1987.
“In Beth Merkin, the Civilian Police Review Board will have an incredibly capable and well-regarded public defender to begin supporting the CPRB and its mission,” Bronin said. “Attorney Merkin’s appointment as Interim Inspector General will ensure that there is no delay in the implementation of the revised ordinance, as the selection committee continues its search for the right candidate to take on the role of Inspector General on a permanent basis.”
The position will investigate complaints against Hartford officers separate from the police department. It provide not only investigative support, but administrative action as well.
In February, the civilian review board was searching to fill various vacant positions, including a new chair and additional members and alternates. Hartford planned to have a permanent inspector by the time new reforms to the board took effect at the end of March, after the position was initially proposed over the summer in light of the Black Lives Matter protests over the deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor at the hands of police.
Jessika Harkay can be reached at email@example.com.