Online survey seeks comment about police

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BENNINGTON — The consultant group conducting a review of Bennington Police Department policies and procedures has met with officers and is seeking input from the public through an online survey, which will continue until Oct. 26.

In a report to the Select Board, Town Manager Stuart Hurd said that the team from the International Association of Chiefs of Police met last week with officers from the department and will be back in Bennington in early November for other meetings.

During the four-month audit review, the team is expected to seek public comment during group meetings and open public sessions. The team also can receive questions or comments via email at BenningtonVT@theIACP.org, which can only be accessed at the IACP offices in Virginia.

Team members said that outside of open sessions, members of the public will be able keep their identity confidential when providing comment about local police or the department.

The Bennington Police review process will include an assessment of the policing environment within the BPD; workforce and community surveys; interviews with employees and community stakeholders, focus group sessions, assessments of the core functions of the department; the collection of data about department operations, and an assessment of how the department's procedures compare with accepted law enforcement best practices.

The $66,000 audit review, which began in September, is expected to last about four months. The IAPC will then provide a report on its findings and offer recommendations.

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The IACP also will provide assistance after the report is submitted to help implement changes related to the findings.

The idea for the review followed complaints about possible racial bias by local police, and it stems from a suggestion earlier this year from Attorney General T.J. Donovan. He had referred to complaints from former state Rep. Kiah Morris and others that the department appeared not to have thoroughly investigated racially motivated online harassment and threats against her, resulting in no criminal charges being filed.

Morris, who is African American, ended her campaign for re-election in August 2018 amid what she said was a continuation of harassment that had begun during the 2016 election season.

Police Chief Paul Doucette has consistently denied that the department failed to investigate Morris' complaints.

The IACP was chosen by the board in August from among 10 organizations or consulting firms that participated in a request for proposals process.

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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