Letter: Attacks on Doucette, Hurd, BPD unfounded

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To the Editor:

While we generally support the efforts of the local branches of the NAACP, the ACLU, and Rights and Democracy, we find their persistent attacks on Police Chief Paul Doucette and the Bennington Police Department mostly unfounded and increasingly unproductive.

While not perfect, the BPD provides outstanding service to our town. In protecting our residents, Chief Doucette and his staff display a high degree of professionalism, especially in defusing tense situations. And to develop relationships within the community, the department participates in numerous outreach programs.

Yes, the department still has work to do in building trust throughout the community. But they deserve credit for their efforts, not constant criticism. Moreover, much of that criticism is unfounded. The NAACP, the ACLU, and others condemned the BPD for its handling of the racial harassment of former State Representative Kiah Morris. But the State Attorney General's office concluded that the BPD and the Vermont State Police thoroughly investigated the matter and found no evidence of wrongdoing.

Nevertheless, in a show of good faith to those who criticized the police handling of the matter, the town engaged the International Association of Chiefs of Police to conduct a study of the policies and procedures of the BPD. While this study made several recommendations to align the department's policies and procedures with best practices for similar organizations, it also found no evidence of any wrongdoing on the part of the department. Importantly, the Select Board, the town manager, and Chief Doucette have all expressed openness to implementing the recommendations.

While the attacks on the BPD raised awareness of racism in the community and pointed the way to improved policies and procedures within the department, they have not been without cost. Early attacks on the department drew national attention, branding both the department and the community as racist - all based on the actions of a handful of individuals. And the continuing attacks contribute to growing divisiveness within the town.

Now, Rights and Democracy has launched a petition drive calling for the resignation of Town Manager Stuart Hurd and Chief Doucette, measures that would surely lead to even greater acrimony. We believe these unrelenting attacks impede efforts to improve police and community relations and to build bridges between diverse groups with our community. We encourage citizens to reject the us-versus-them thinking implicit in many of the actions and proposals of the local branches of the NAACP, ACLU, and Rights and Democracy and, instead, work out our differences together. The Select Board, the town manager, and Chief Doucette have all indicated a willingness to do so. We should give them the opportunity.

Ronald Rabidou and Ann Kremers,

Bennington

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