McManus Faces Tough Questioning from Council Members Over Award Snafu

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Facing City Council members for the first time since news broke that Sgt. Dan May would receive the department’s Medal of Valor, Police Chief William McManus on Wednesday said he had restructured the award’s process and would issue a personal apology to the mother of the boy May killed 15 years ago.

He also hinted that the internal police committee that approved the award may have done so as an act of defiance.

“I think the process has been restructured so this doesn’t happen again,” a solemn McManus told members of the Public Safety and Regulatory Services Committee. In the future, all department awards will have to be approved by the chief.

McManus announced that he had signed an official letter of apology to Earline Skinner, whose son, 17-year-old Tycel Nelson was killed by May in a controversial altercation in December 1990. He will deliver the letter Thursday with the Rev. Ian Bethel.

Asked by Council Member Gary Schiff why he had failed to communicate with council members after the story broke, McManus apologized, but added, “My focus was on bracing for the impact, not on who to call.”

Council Member Ralph Remington, who is not a member of the committee but sat in on the McManus questioning, wondered what the officers who granted the award intended to accomplish. “This goes under the realm of, ‘What were they thinking?’” he said.

The Police-Community Relations Council, which had met earlier in the day, had asked the same question, McManus said. “I won’t speculate, but I have my thoughts on the matter.”

When committee chair Don Samuels ventured, “Clearly there was some defiance there” on the part of the officers, McManus did not reply, but nodded in agreement.

The chief was visibly angered by the entire series of events, but came away from this particular round of questioning with what appeared to be strong support from the council members present. Remington appeared to capture the consensus. “I trust you at the helm and trust that you will rectify it in the future,” he said.

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