BENNINGTON — The Select Board has decided to post and seek comment on proposed revisions of Bennington Police Department policies as they are submitted by the individual task force groups making the recommendations.
The first draft policies are closely related — on the use of force by officers, the duty of officers to intervene if there is improper use of force being applied, and on the use of conducted electrical weapons, such as stun guns.
Revisions of those BPD policies were submitted to the board this week for a first reading, and they will come back for a second reading and possible vote at a subsequent meeting.
Meanwhile, the task force groups are continuing to review five other policies of the department with the goal of approving draft versions by the end of December.
Another group of policies will be considered during the first quarter of 2021, and when approved by the board, will remain posted on the town website, http://benningtonvt.org/, for access by the public.
Currently, a community policing resources page lists policies to be considered this year, along with model policies from the Vermont League of Cities and Towns, the International Association of Chiefs of Police and other Vermont police forces, which the task forces are considering during their reviews.
PUBLIC INPUTSelect Board member Bruce Lee-Clark, who along with Assistant Town Manager Daniel Monks and BPD Officer Daniel Ferrara, is serving on each of the task force groups with four citizen volunteers, said anyone with suggestions or questions about the policies being posted in draft form can contact him at email@example.com by Dec. 7.
The board is expected to consider voting on those policies on Dec. 14, although votes could be postponed if more time is needed, Select Board Chairman Donald Campbell said Monday.
Both the model first policies considered and the “marked up” policies, with proposed changes offered by the task force members, are now posted on the town website, at https://benningtonvt.org/working-drafts-policy-list/.
The task force sessions themselves were recorded by the local cable network, CAT-TV for posting on its Facebook page.
The systematic policy reviews stem from recommendations from the IACP in a report the organization released in the spring following a four-month review of the BPD practices and policies.
The Select Board hired the organization following criticism earlier in 2019 of the department’s response to racial harassment complaints over a two-year period from former state Rep. Kiah Morris, who stepped down in September 2018.
The first policies that are now posted have been through a task force review and have been reviewed by town counsel Robert Woolmington and Police Chief Paul Doucette, Lee-Clark said. Once the Select Board adopts a policy, it will also be posted to provide the public with that information.
Policies make all officers aware of the legal and other boundaries of conduct and practice are, he said, adding, “And now we are making those boundaries public … That’s a positive of this process.”
He also noted that the task forces are working within boundaries that include state law, such as recently enacted legislation that covers the use of restraints involving the neck area and state law involving the use of stun guns and similar weapons by police.
The policy drafted is nearly identical to the state statute on use of those weapons, Lee-Clark said.