Board to consider hiring Reed to help reform BPD

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BENNINGTON — The Select Board on Monday will consider water and sewer rates for the coming fiscal year and a proposal to hire Curtiss Reed Jr., of the Vermont Partnership for Fairness and Diversity, to assist the town is implementing recommendations from a study of Bennington police policies and procedures.

The board's meeting packet for the 6 p.m. meeting, which will be a televised videoconference, includes Reed's contract proposal and water/sewer rate information.

The scope of work includes assisting in implementing the recommendations in a report from the International Association of Chiefs of Police after a four-month review of the BPD by a consultant team from that organization.

The key themes, according to the proposal, will be in addressing "community-police relationships and trust, legitimacy and procedural justice."

Reed proposes to facilitate professional development and coaching for the Select Board, town manager, assistant manager, Community Development director, chief of police and a police lieutenant.

Workshops would cover such topics as resistance to change theory, mitigating the negative effects of bias, values clarification, and core operational values.

Community involvement

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Reed also proposes to "reimagine the suggested IACP action plan to provide for greater community involvement, delineating sequential actions and actions which can be implemented in a parallel fashion, and [providing a] suggested timeline."

He also proposes helping create joint town and community-driven vision and mission statements for the BPD.

And Reed proposes assisting in structuring a process and tools for a team of three community members to research types of civilian review boards or commissions to complement law enforcement oversight and community policing practices in rural communities.

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The cost for the work, which is estimated to take about six months, is $21,700, according to the proposal the board will review on Monday.

In addition, $3,000 is estimated to pay two three-member community member teams to research citizen oversight structures and community policing options.

Interviews by the groups are suggested with entities like the State Police Advisory Commission and the Brattleboro Citizens Police Communications Committee, and with representatives from the Brattleboro, Montpelier, Springfield, South Burlington and Hartford police departments.

Reed, executive director of the Partnership for Fairness and Diversity since 2001, has worked with a number of law enforcement entities in the state on policing reform issues.

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He also assisted the Select Board is preparing a request for proposals from consulting firms and organizations last fall, resulting in the board's selection of the IACP.

Water/sewer rates

The board also will consider proposed water and sewer rates for fiscal 2021 to fund expenses in those departments.

Town Manager Stuart Hurd proposes no change in the water rate and an 8 percent increase in the sewer rate. The rates were projected to rise for three years, beginning this fiscal year, because of a number of factors, including an major upgrade project at the sewer plant and higher depreciation costs, Hurd has said.

This year, he notes, the overall water usage level decreased, and another decrease is expected, reflecting the closure of Southern Vermont College in May 2019.

The manager's report on the water and sewer rates is also included in the board's meeting packet for Monday.


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