BPD policy review groups named

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BENNINGTON — The task force groups that will consider revisions to six Bennington Police Department policies this fall have been selected and are expected to begin meeting Sept. 23.

Select Board Vice Chairwoman Jeannie Jenkins, who updated the board Monday, said the participants were selected after an application process and have been assigned to the six groups.

Each group was set up to have up to four citizen volunteers to work with Bruce Lee-Clark of the Select Board, Assistant Town Manager Daniel Monks and Officer Daniel Ferrara, representing the police department.

The three-hour task force meetings will be held at the Bennington Firehouse and will be open to the public, with limited access due to COVID-19 social distancing restrictions.

The meeting schedule for the first six task force groups is posted on the Bennington town website.

Only task force members will be able to participate in the discussions, which will be posted as meetings, but others can observe the process.

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December goal

Jenkins said the goal is to agree by December on any revisions to policies covering the use of force by police/duty of other officers to intervene; fair and impartial policing; investigating and reporting hate crimes; response to persons expressing a mental health crisis; motor vehicle stops and domestic violence responses.

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Six other BPD policies will be reviewed over the following three months. The review process is an outgrowth of a report in April from the International Association of Chiefs of Police, which conducted a four-month review of the BPD that began last year. Among the recommendations were a review of the 12 department policies.

The task force format was previously worked out during meetings involving Jenkins, Select Board members Jeanne Conner and Lee-Clark; Community Development Director Shannon Barsotti, Monks, and Police Chief Paul Doucette and Lt. Camillo Grande of the BPD.

In addition to their own research on the given task force topic, citizen volunteers were required to have a flexible schedule and complete about 10 hours of policy-related reading. They'll essentially be required to review and understand materials related to the specific policy being addressed and compare and contrast different law enforcement policy models and approaches.

This and other information about police policies and related topics is being posted on the town website on a community policing resources page.

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Adoption process

Jenkins said that once draft policies recommendations are completed and reviewed by town counsel, the State's Attorney's Office and Doucette, they will be submitted to the Select Board for adoption. At that point the general public will have an opportunity to comment on any changes.

The task forces also will keep abreast of any law enforcement-related bills that go before the Legislature this year for the potential impacts on Bennington and its review process, Jenkins said.

The citizen task force members and their respective groups are Peter Niles, Daniel Merges, Ricardo Wilson, and Alison Levie in the use of force/duty to intervene task force; the Rev. Robert Wiseman, Catherine Canning, Greg Burda and Alana Harte in the the fair and impartial policing group; Grace Winslow, Cindy Taylor, Mark Blank and Jamar Bivens in the hate crimes/reporting group; Al Bashevkin, Asher Edelson, Kheya Ganguly and Valerie Gray-Shemeth in response to a person in mental health crisis group; Robert Ebert, Lon McClintock and Kara Lusa in the motor vehicle stops task force; and Lauren Wilcox, Janice Lerrigo, Peter Lawrence and Elinor Hilton in the domestic violence response group.

Jim Therrien writes for New England Newspapers in Southern Vermont, including the Bennington Banner, Brattleboro Reformer and Manchester Journal. Twitter: @BB_therrien


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