Here’s the full text of the document discussed at the July 21, 2020 meeting of the Brattleboro Selectboard:
July, 21, 2020
Collaborative Community Statement Regarding the Brattleboro Policing/Community Safety Review Process
We are seeking a review process focused on a comprehensive examination of community safety and policing in Brattleboro to determine whether the police force effectively meets the communities’ needs, and to determine how to best fund and support community safety.
Many in our community do not feel, and are not, safe. Simply looking at the Brattleboro Police Department does not adequately address this problem. Even replacing each police task with an 1:1 equivalent task enacted by a social service organization does not create a solution. We need to examine how we are framing and funding community safety here in Brattleboro. We need to ask deeply into what our community needs to be safe, and listen, and build toward that horizon that we envision together.
We need to fund the community members who will do this work, with a skilled and appropriate facilitator on a timeline that respects the historical opportunity of this moment. Achieving the depth needed to conduct this meaningful work will only be possible with a genuine commitment of time and resources.
This is an opportunity to take a step back, assess community needs and define what community safety looks like. Then, we can determine the roles of policing, local organizations, Town government, and our community members in meeting these needs.
During the Brattleboro Selectboard meeting on June 16, numerous community members called for the Selectboard to reject the proposed budget and direct police funding to other community safety initiatives, local nonprofits, and social service organizations. The Selectboard passed the budget, but agreed to enter into a process of examining community safety, policing, and the budget.
In response, a group of Brattleboro town and area residents involved in diverse and collective movements for liberation and social justice put forward a Proposal (Community Proposal) on June 30, requesting a process that would take a real, deep, equitable, accountable look into policing and community safety. Many community members, social justice organizations, and people from groups especially affected by policing expressed a desire to enter this work together with the Town and Selectboard. (Over 150 individuals and 14 organizations signed on to this Community Proposal before the July 7 meeting!) A Selectboard member, Elizabeth “Liz” McLoughlin, also put forward a proposal on this date (McLoughlin Proposal).
At the next Selectboard meeting on July 7, community members highlighted key points of divergence between the Community Proposal and the McLoughlin Proposal; namely:
- Paid Work – the Community Proposal requested a paid facilitation team, and stipends for individual contributors from the communities most impacted.
- Scope – the Community Proposal requested a more expansive process that would look at the totality of community safety within the Town of Brattleboro. A process that focuses on community desires, needs, and reports of harm experienced while considering how to utilize our Town resources to ensure community health, wellness, and safety.
- Community Decision Making Power – the Community Proposal requested that the creation of the process and future decision-making be led by the community, (not the Police Department or the Selectboard acting alone) and that the voices of those most impacted by policing be centered and given power.
After a lengthy discussion, agreement about the community safety process was not reached. Continued conversation was scheduled for the Selectboard Meeting on July 21. Prior to this meeting, Selectboard Member McLoughlin submitted the Request for Proposals (RFP) copied below. Some community members involved in submitting the original Community Proposal met to discuss creating an addendum with more specifics, and instead took a look at McLoughlin’s RFP. While there is appreciation for the work put in by Liz McLoughlin, the Community Group has serious concerns with this RFP as written, and have crafted the following response.
Request For Proposals Response
While appreciating that a Selectboard member took initiative to begin work on this process, we know that everything worth doing is worth doing together. (If it affects the community, it should involve the community!) We are glad that Liz McLoughlin’s RFP is seeking to pay facilitators for their work, and that many of the specific requests for an open and accessible process have been included. There are, however, ways this RFP should be changed to be more in line with the vision of the Community Proposal.
Key points of dissent
- Wider Scope Needed – We are seeking a review process focused on a comprehensive examination of community safety and policing in Brattleboro to determine whether the police force effectively meets the communities’ needs, and to determine how to best fund and support community safety. Many in our community do not feel, and are not, safe. Simply looking at the Brattleboro Police Department (BPD) does not adequately address this problem. Even replacing each police task with an 1:1 equivalent task enacted by a social service organization does not create a solution. We need to examine how we are framing and funding community safety here in Brattleboro, not just look at how the BPD is doing. We need to ask deeply into what our community needs to be safe, and listen, and build toward that horizon that we envision together.
- Community Decision Making Power – as requested in the Community Proposal, we continue to assert that future decision-making be led by the community, and that the voices of those most impacted by policing be centered and given power. If a Review Committee will be created, empower that committee to make recommendations and decisions. They should not just be an information gathering tool, but rather have the authority to craft proposals for change (if they identify that change is needed and possible) that will be approved by the Selectboard and Representative Town Meeting.
- Chosen Framework & Leading Outcomes – The assumption that “BPD will be examined in accordance with Campaign Zero Solutions” is already supporting an outcome for community safety goals before there has been a process to examine and identify community safety needs. We don’t support the goals of Campaign Zero (and neither do the founders of Campaign Zero, who themselves shifted their objectives toward defunding and abolition after concern about the soundness of their statistical analysis and feedback from communities that these objectives did not align with the long term goals of anti-racist organizers across the country). This framework would exclude voices from this process. Much of the work ahead will inevitably be based on what other communities have found to be successful; however, at this point we are focused on process and not outcome.
- Short Timeline – Anticipating that this deep and significant work be completed within the next four months (by November 2020) is not realistic. Understanding the reality of budget deadlines, we propose that this process be conducted in stages. Phase 1 could address funding in the FY21 Town Budget, with additional phases continuing afterward to understand and implement community safety improvements. We hope this body understands the historical opportunity of this moment to not just grasp low hanging fruit, but to engage in a long term look at creating community safety & wellness.
- Valuing Community Work – Many community members are actively engaged in the work of community safety, are heavily impacted by carceral systems, and/or have deeply studied these systems. Over 150 individuals and 14 organizations signed on to the Community Proposal that was debated against a proposal written by one Selectboard member. We ask that the knowledge and labor of these community members and this community process be listened to and valued.
Thank you to those Selectboard members who have played a part in the larger community process. We request that all Selectboard members step into deeper collaboration with the many community members already investing their time and energy into these projects. It would be much more desirable and effective to work together to create mutually beneficial processes rather than pit proposals created in community process and proposals created alone against each other!
It is important to establish agreements for clarity and mutual understanding before a Request for Proposals is created and approved.
- Facilitator Qualifications: Establish agreements around the qualifications, perspectives and experience of those who will be sought as facilitators.
Qualities we are seeking in a facilitator:
- Anti-racist. A helpful way to think of this is a person experienced in “identifying and eliminating racism by changing systems, organizational structures, policies and practices and attitudes, so that power is redistributed and shared equitably.” [NAC International Perspectives: Women and Global Solidarity]
- Experienced in creating spaces and processes where many voices are included and power differences do not result in less privileged people being excluded.
- Experienced in qualitative research methods (e.g. semi-structured, interviews, focus groups, community forums, ethnographic observations, participatory research)
- Familiar with and open to creating new/decolonized systems instead of only looking for solutions within currently operating systems. (i.e familiar with restorative and transformative models, etc.)
- Ability to handle sensitive data in an ethical, legal, and culturally appropriate way.
- Incorporates processes for transformative and liberated work that includes somatics (body-based). Uses these processes to “get” information from our community that is not traditional and in a way that is easy for people to interpret and participate in.
- For example, creating art, movement or other initiatives where our community can express their experiences in a way that feels accessible to them. This will include people who have been harmed or alienated by prevailing processes. (i.e. the “sit for 3 hours and respond to questions by an authority figure” scenario.)
- Experienced in working with groups that have been historically marginalized by police (e.g. BIPOC, LGBTQ+, low-income, psychiatrically labelled people, those in recovery and/or actively using, etc.)
- Experience in rural communities
- Review Committee Selection: Establish agreements about how to define and choose the “cross-section of Brattleboro citizens” that will be solicited for the review committee. It is important that folks are not chosen solely based on population data. Consider weighting the feedback of individuals from groups who experience more frequent police interactions and are more likely to be harmed in those interactions. This includes Black, Indigenous and People of Color as well as the narratives of other community members who are especially impacted: those who use drugs, psychiatrically labelled people, people with disabilities, domestic violence and sexual assault survivors, and poor people, homeless people, LGBTQ+ folks, and more.
- Compensation Agreements: As is standard with this type of research, individual participants should be financially compensated for their time, emotional labor, and transportation through a stipend. Establish, or be prepared to establish, this budget.
- Bid evaluation criteria: Establish the criteria/rubric for bid evaluation with community input.
- Timeline: Create an agreed upon phased timeline. Understanding the reality of budget deadlines, we propose that this process be conducted in stages. Phase 1, to end in November 2020, could address funding in the FY21 Town Budget, with additional phases afterward to continue understanding and implementing community safety improvements. The details can be adapted by facilitators once chosen, but should be crafted with the understanding that this is deep, meaningful work that will only be truly possible with the commitment of time and resources.
Text of the McLoughlin RFP (for reference):
Converted from .PDF for community access
Request for Proposals Scope of Work
Town of Brattleboro · In-service Training
Issue date: July 22, 2020 Response date: August 21, 2020
Consistent with Selectboard action on July 21st, and public discussions on June 16, July 7th and July 21st of this year, Brattleboro will begin a focused examination of the Brattleboro Police Department (BPD). A citizen review of the policies, training, procedures and budget of the current Brattleboro Police Department will be conducted through a public examination process. This RFP is a call for one or more paid facilitators charged to facilitate a citizen committee to conduct this study.
“Brattleboro, population 11,332 (US Census estimate 2019), is a town in Windham County, Vermont. Chartered in 1753, the Town of Brattleboro (Town) is the most populous in southern Vermont. The Town is governed by a five-member Selectboard elected by eligible citizens. The Select Board, as the legislative branch of town government, hires and supervises a Town Manager. The Town Manager hires and supervises the Brattleboro Police Chief who in turn supervises the Brattleboro Police Department.
Town of Brattleboro Population Data
|Black or African American alone (a)||0.9%||102|
|Asian alone (a)||2.5%||283|
|Two or More Races||4.3%||487|
|Hispanic or Latino(b)||3.2%||362|
|White alone, not Hispanic or Latino||90.4%||10,244|
(a) Includes persons reporting only one race
(b)Hispanics may be of any race, so also are included in applicable race categories
Source: U.S. Census July 1, 2019
The adult population of people of color is increasing slowly in Brattleboro. However, students of color now account for approximately 20% of Brattleboro’s school enrollment. That is far more racial diversity than existed in local schools during prior generations.
Beginning in 2017, the Brattleboro Selectboard and Town Manager have engaged in discussions and actions with the community regarding diversity, inclusion and equity. Bias Training has also occurred and is continuing. With the recent focus on race and policing on a national level, the Selectboard and the public seek to begin a conversation resulting in a comprehensive examination of the Brattleboro Police Department.
Brattleboro welcomes all. This welcome must include persons of color, in particular, both as visitors and as residents. Through this examination process, we can establish that this welcome is shared by the BPD. Upon completion, our town government can be a reflection of our town values.
Objective of the Study
- The Town of Brattleboro seeks one or more individuals to serve as paid facilitators for a comprehensive examination of the Brattleboro Police Department.
- This process begins with this call for paid individuals to serve as facilitators.
- These facilitators will assist the Selectboard in the selection of a volunteer public committee that represents a cross-section of Brattleboro citizens.
- This facilitated public committee will meet with the public to hear ideas/comments/testimony regarding the BPD.
- The facilitators and committee will also seek information and engage in discussions with the BPD.
- The target date for completion of this process is November of this year, prior to the Selectboard review of the FY21 Annual Budget.
Assumptions of the Study
An open, accessible and affirmative process would include:
- Meetings that are open, accessible and that affirmatively engage public participation
- Virtual options for participation, during the pandemic and beyond
- Childcare for participants, as necessary, for in-person meetings
- Interpretation and translation
- Opportunities for public feedback without police present
- A process to collect community members’ experiences with police and policing anonymously, without fear of retribution by police.
- Prioritizing holding any in-person meetings in spaces where POC have built trust, comfort, and power
- Meetings happening at times that are accessible to the majority of people
- BPD will be examined in accordance with Campaign Zero Solutions: https://www.joincampaignzero.org/solutions.
- All meetings are subject to the Vermont Open Meeting Law.
- Facilitators will not be part of the Citizen Police Communication Committee (CPCC), the police, or the Selectboard
Scope of Study
The Town of Brattleboro seeks to retain individuals to facilitate the following scope of study:
- The facilitators will begin by assisting the Selectboard with an open call for the public to volunteer to join this public committee. Committee members will be engaged by the Selectboard at a public meeting.
- The committee will be led by identified facilitators to assure that the committee’s work is equitable, accountable, and collaborative, and non-confrontational. The committee will meet as necessary – for this scope of work a total of eight meetings are estimated (including presentation of findings at a Selectboard meeting).
- Listening sessions will be held by the committee for public input, including people who do not wish to engage with the police, Meetings can be held without the police present.
- The facilitated committee or a designated sub-committee will conduct an independent citizen review of current policing practices, policies, training and budget as benchmarked against Campaign Zero Solutions.
- A policy team may wish to draft policy statements.
- A training team may wish to develop an innovative training course specifically tailored for the BPD based upon this work.
- Non-profit conversations: facilitators and committee will hold sessions with the non-profits who currently work with BPD on Project Care to discuss potential expansion of this collaboration into other areas of policing beside opioid use and to hear their perspective on police practices. What might these agencies do with more money? What tasks currently performed by the BPD might be undertaken either in partnership with social services or only by social services? Can restorative justice programs be expanded? This effort will focus on measures to reduce the number of people who are introduced to the criminal justice system through the BPD.
- Report to Selectboard and public: The committee will report its findings to the Selectboard and the public. All new initiatives will be reviewed for compliance with newly adopted State and Federal laws.
- The town will act upon the recommendations received in a public forum. Implementation of new policies, operations and/or budget decisions will be determined by the Selectboard, Town Manager and/or BPD. Changes to BPD budget, increased funding to restorative justice, and/or non-profit social service agencies will be determined by the Selectboard and RTM.
Bid Proposal Format
Bids shall be no longer than fifteen (15) pages in length, single-spaced and use not less than 12pt font. Pages must be numbered. Bids should be comprehensive, yet concise and include:
- A brief biography and description of the individual facilitator(s) which includes a resume, philosophy, and qualifications to execute the scope of work including prior experience providing this type of meeting facilitation in a public setting.
- A vision or methodology for conducting this process.
- A proposed budget.
Bid Evaluation Criteria
|Experience as Facilitator||40|
|Methodology for Conducting this BPD Examination||40|
Delivery of Bid Via U.S. mail: Town Manager Town of Brattleboro 230 Main Street Suite 208 Brattleboro, Vermont 05301
Electronic submissions should be sent to: firstname.lastname@example.org
Questions concerning Bid If you have any questions concerning this bid please submit them via email to Peter Elwell, Town Manager, email@example.com
Response date Bids should be received by 23h59m on August 21, 2020