Selectboard Meeting Notes – Community Safety and Police Review RFP Approved

selectboard zoom chat

The Brattleboro Selectboard approved an edited version of the community RFP for police review and public safety at their Tuesday meeting. The Town-edited proposal was discussed at length and a few final tweaks were made before it was unanimously approved. Next steps: facilitator proposals and the formation of a committee.


(Tonight I plan to do some very lazy Selectboard coverage. I’m not quite in the mood to transcribe every word for many hours, so I’m going to watch, make note of a few things, and wrap it up by 8 pm, regardless of where they are in the agenda. You are, as always, welcome to add more.)

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  • The Meeting

    Preliminaries – It’s nice out, it’s the anniversary of women voting, Traffic Safety will meet soon, there is a state program for people with utility bills in arrears.

    Public Participation:

    – Someone screamed.
    – Kurt Daims proposes that the board take up his/Brattleboro Common Sense proposal for community safety on a future agenda – disarm the police, basically. Like England does it. Weapon-less policing. Quick action on his proposal would be good for Black lives, he says.
    – Heather, a researcher for BCS, has been looking at conversations with officers in the US and Scotland in support of the above.
    – Hannah Van Dusen , another BCS researcher, mentions Betty Jones, and how large settlement claims can bankrupt a budget. Less severe damages if no weapons are involved.
    – Brandon Lee, graduate of SIT in Oregon, mentions community-conscious policing. Happy to help. Train4Transformation is his organization.

  • RFP Discussion

    Peter Elwell explains the changes and edits made to the RFP since the last time it was discussed. All available on the Town website in backup materials for this meeting.

    The scope of changes address legality, he says. Bob Fisher reviewed it, too. Ready to go!

    Fixed some formatting to conform with Town processes. Timeline was adjusted. Selectboard authority and obligations made more clear. Finally, the language of excluding some people has been removed or made more inclusive.

    Elwell reached out to members that drafted the original proposal, and met with 5 of them to go over this in its edited form, which added a few tweaks. One item discussed – composition of the committee – and the scope of potential changes went beyond what the board had directed him to do. The board may get feedback on that part tonight, he says. Elwell recommends board discuss it, then approve it as is or as amended tonight, and staff will start the RFP process. Also, we want to seek applicants to apply to join advisory committee. Sept 8 is proposed deadline for proposals and applications. Sept 15 mtg will discuss it.

    He says the appointments to committee can be discussed in executive session after interviews. The facilitator, maybe… (Bob Fisher says contractual matters can be discussed in executive session. He says deliberative matters might also be discussed. Interviews are in open session, generally.)

    They first decide to poll the board to see what they think:

    Liz – likes much of it. Suggests one edit – add a sentence: this will include an examination of BPD policies, practices and budget according to national anti-racism material.

    Brandie – I’d love to see this approved by 8pm. To Liz’s point – which national standard?

    Liz – I like Campaign Zero. Also, it can be up to the community. But Campaign Zero is a great plan. Want to see how Brattleboro stacks up against other communities.

    Ian – I have a lot of excitement about this. We can act on this tonight. Some won’t like the language, and that’s a good thing. This process will be uncomfortable. Two thoughts on Liz – suggests limiting it and not mentioning national standards, or that it will be chosen by committee. Hopes for very specific criticisms.

    Daniel – pretty amazing thing. Not everyone will be happy, but it is a wonderful piece of work. Ready to move forward and open to suggested edits. To Liz – I worry about aiming this too much at police and not community safety. I trust the facilitator and committee. Fine to leave it in or not.

    Tim – Overall, not everyone will be happy. For example, me. My discomfort is around language. I want it to be successful process, and some phrases need some explanation. This doesn’t need to be perfect, it is an RFP. One example, my confusion over “decolonized systems” – it has to be explained to a lot of people. It has many meanings. But it is OK. To Liz, I also want to be clear we will examine police and community safety. We don’t have control over all social service agencies in town. Police we have control over. Examining what police do now will be valuable.

    (Okay, 5 votes in favor at 7:07pm… could be voted on and approved right this minute…)

    Public POV:

    Malaika – mostly positive, but a couple little things we’d like to change. A number of things changed. Some pieces got dropped that we’d like to get in there. To Liz, mentioning the police is a fine idea. Also fine to leave it open-ended to let committee and facilitator to interpret it. Final edits we suggest are:

    1. Number 4 in process overview – a significant dilution of what we had. One piece was added – “while not excluding community members..” – that’s okay. One deletion was about people we want to prioritize. We want some people who have expertise in their experiences. Our rewrite wants to mention advocacy and expertise and list those we want to prioritize – marginalized communities.

    2. In “Assumptions” – we want to suggest adding “gathering stories through one on one interviews” rather than just submitting things anonymously in a small community. We’d like to share lessons, not personal details.

    3. Conflicts of Interest – #10 in assumptions – we suggest the board consider appropriateness of police being on the committee. We think the committee should have conversations with law enforcement, but this is to review the police, so they shouldn’t be serving on the committee. As many community members as possible.

    Peter Elwell weigh in on the suggestions. #1 and #3 – re: police and reinsertion of language. The board is responsible for the RFP, and will get recommendations back. Anything that constrains the board won’t work, but there are outside-the-board options. This is the Town Government process. Up to the board about these suggestions. Excluding police officers isn’t helpful – the board wanted it out. This would reinsert some exclusionary language.

    Elwell says the #1 suggestion – asking for expertise and advocacy – is less problematic in constraining the board, but it does narrow the board’s choices. It is the board’s judgement call, he says. The board will be accountable for decisions made. These changes aren’t necessary, he says, but it is not illegal or improper.

    Elwell says he has a personal concern about the need for some anonymous testimony. He says there are people who have info to share that won’t feel safe or able to share if it is public. There is a need to protect everyone from private decisions with public bodies, he says, so the document as it stands before edits already acknowledges the shortcoming of our public processes. His concern is about anonymity extending outside the public’s business being done in public. The board can make this change, but he urges caution. Less accountability if anonymous and secondhand.

    The board chimes in again:

    Daniel – #1 seems fine. We want to avoid tokenization. #3 I’m agnostic about. #2 we can have some anonymous gathering of info.

    Brandie – Agrees with Daniel about non tokenism. Thinks police shouldn’t be on the committee. Anonymity is ok in some cases.

    Ian – #3 – we won’t tokenize people. #2 – the testimony of community members will be very important. Voices aren’t being heard. Wants to keep it open for facilitator proposals. Ian is against #3, needs an answer on #1, and need to hear #2 again.

    Daniel – wants the committee to have lived-experience experts. Trusts professionalism of the board to create the best committee possible.

    Elwell – hearing a disconnect. The language that includes lived experience is in there. Additional language to describe a subset of those people was removed. Not just lived experience, but also with advocacy and activism around those issues. Do you want to add back in “advocacy and activism”?

    Liz – Elwell made good decisions, carefully weighed. We had trust, and it paid off. We all need to trust that this will go well. If this is picked apart now, we should stop… anonymity is there. Marginalized people will be there. No need to tinker with this anymore.

    Tim – this will all come down to who we will pick for the committee. Better to go with the document as is. If it fails, we have more work to do, he says. Trust that we’ll have all of this in mind when we set up the committee. We’ll be careful. We’ll appoint a balanced committee.

    Public weighs in again.

    George Carville – is proposal available? (yes, on the town website)

    Alex Fischer – #1 edit – makeup of committee – should be clear when setting goals. Mentioning who we want to see speaks to the outreach component. We’re handing power over to you now. You want us to trust you. You should also trust us. We want edits because they are important, not to drag this out. These aren’t small edits to us.

    Shea Witzo – I’m a survivor and do advocacy work. For me and others, anonymity and keeping police out are a make or break issue for that community. There will be different outcomes if you aren’t clear about protections being offered. You have to be clear on paper to hear about private experiences. You’ll get more stories and insights.

    Tim reads the part about collecting community info anonymously. The “one on one” was an addition to that?

    (It’s after 8 and I was going to quit, but I’ll do a bit more…)

    Ian suggests that a facilitator responding to the RFP could bring it up as essential.

    Elwell says he is uncomfortable making it more anonymous in a town document. This is already beyond our normal way of doing things. No right or wrong answer.

    Malaika – I sent the language along. One on one meetings…

    Tim suggests making is an example, or “such as”…

    Ian wonders why they should restrict the facilitator.

    Malaika accepts the “such as” addition.

    Tim suggests a break. Then some comments. Then a vote.

  • RFP part 2

    Lana – I agree with anonymity and police not on committee. It is unlikely that police would want to join, but it is important to be intentional. You have to build trust. Stand with the community. Not lip service. Police on committee would be whitewashing and lip service. Start with good intentions.

    Rikki Risatti –

    Tom Grasso – we should move forward with proposal as is, plus amendment that Liz offered. Police and criminal justice is at center of racist system. Facilitator should not be involved with the Town to be unbiased. We need more specific recommendations for what board and reps are going to do about this problem. Brattleboro can’t solve this alone. There should be recommendations to state and federal laws.

    Rikki – have there been meetings to establish the committee – can there be a public vote on the committee?

    Tim – no – we form the committee.

    Rikki – can we include the original name of the area in this RFP?

    Tim – some was taken from the Town Plan.

    Elwell – It mentions it.

    Rikki – is ample public anonymity why the public chat is disabled?

    Tim – not a subject for right now.

    Tim – we have a positive vote to take here.

    Daniel – we took care of the anonymity issue, what Lana said about police being on the committee – I agree that we should say they can’t be on the committee.

    Ian – I want to kick it around rather than move on. I don’t see how we can exclude anyone from a committee. Also, I want a specific answer of who you are talking about – police, dispatch, there are a lot of people…. if you want to exclude you have to be specific. People will be applying for the committee before there is a proposal.

    Liz – there would be anonymity without police in the RFP…

    Elwell – the part that remains is anonymous info to the committee. Police not attending was removed. Should you exclude them from the committee? Doing the committee and rfp at the same time is to move this along quickly. Any delay potentially threatens the value of the effort. You can do them sequentially, but that would delay things. The committee will decide on the process, so they can be done at the same time.

    Bob F – can you make appointments that exclude police officers, yes. The strength of the advice back to the board will be compromised if all stakeholders don’t participate. You can exclude them from the committee, but not from the public meetings. All meetings need to be open public meetings and police can attend.

    Ian – can we exclude them at the outset, not while picking people?

    Bob F – the board will decide and you can say it up front. A policy decision.

    Ian – if police come to a meeting they can participate?

    Bob F – absolutely.

    Liz – there will be meetings with lived experience testimony, and inquiries about the police, and with social service agencies. There is a role for the police here. People can watch meetings on TV, or read minutes, it is public.

    Tim – I’d like to move this forward. There aren’t three votes for excluding people from the committee…

    Daniel – are you sure?

    Tim – make a motion.

    Ian – no matter who we put on the committee, anyone can come to meetings. As long as that is clear.

    Daniel – do we want to make this the safest place possible. It won’t be perfect, but we need to make it as safe enough as we can. The police will be involved but should they sit on the committee?

    Tim – but we’re excluding people upfront. I want this to be successful and don’t want to exclude community members.

    Brandie – what Bob said is good. We can decide who is on the committee, but not who attends a meeting. My weirdness is people sitting on a committee that is reviewing themselves. We can declare conflicts of interest.

    Elwell – make a policy decision. You can go either way.

    Ian – the committee won’t have active police on it but will communicate with police as part of the process? How about that?

    Liz – selectboard won’t be on this, police won’t be on this, CPCC would be on it… all that was taken out. We added CPCC back in. We set this in motion. We can easily say we will not appoint police to this committee. Buyt we need to make sure they are stakeholders. We can do both things. Call for a motion – the edit I made, the edit about “such as”, and no police officers on the committee.

    Elwell notes there was another suggestion…. adding back in language about activists and experts. (Reads it).

    Ian – I don’t support that one. I support #3 and #2. #1 is redundant. I stand with Liz’s motion.

    Brandie – I’ve seen similar language be successful…

    Elwell reads what it would be without the activist and expert language.

    Tim – Ok.

    Ian – if we got applicants from each of those groups, and if they are an activist and expert that will weigh on the decision. Don’t need the additional language.

    Daniel – they don’t trust us to make the right decision. Take it as you will. I trust us.

    Liz – let’s vote.

    Daniel – fine by me. Ian?

    Tim – we have to launch this. Why add the word “fair” rate… we’re always fair.

    Brandie – we’re not always going to be the board.

    Tim – we will for this process.

    Elwell recites motion – approve the RFP as presented with changes – 1. to add under process overview -“this will include police policies, practices and budget”, and under Assumptions we’ll add “such as in one on one interviews….”, and there will be a new paragraph about no police officers appointed to committee.

    Ian – so moved.

    Daniel – not sure about the national anti-racist criteria – not clear what that it. Facilitator will do this.

    Liz – we’re doing three things – public safety at large, social services at large, and what our police do now and what can be done. You said Campaign Zero was discredited. Campaign Zero is still valid…

    Daniel – that points us toward a particular outcome.

    Liz – we promised to examine the police. That’s the beef. The social services and the rest are special sauce. How does Brattleboro measure up to our values, and the best way to do that is through something like Campaign Zero.

    Daniel – I don’t need the “national antiracist framework”

    Liz – what if we say Campaign Zero or other national standards.

    Daniel – no naming of outcomes. The facilitator and committee will drive this.

    Liz – you can take out the national racist criteria, then we’ll have a review of their polices, practices and budget.

    Daniel – we already say we’ll look at police and more. The facilitator may have a framework they like…

    Tim – Liz dropped the framework.

    Liz – it would be strange to not judge us against national criteria. But don’t dismiss the prime directive to examine the police department.

    Ian – that’s why we should name it here. We could say national anti-racist criteria as determined by the committee.

    Brandie – I like both – but prefer the simpler one without the national criteria mention.

    Daniel – no national criteria…

    Ian withdraws motion and Elwell clarifies. The new change is that the language about national antiracism criteria not being included.


    Edited RFP is approved.

    Elwell – you intention is to start the committee, too, right?

    Board says yes.

    Both processes start tomorrow.


    I’m done for tonight.

    I’ll predict that everything else on the agenda passes tonight.

  • RFP?

    There was a long discussion about “RFP”without ever a mention of what those letters stand for. So I googled and found out it stands for “Request for Proposal.” Then I went to the lead paragraph and saw that this requested proposal is, “for police review and public safety.”

    Perhaps those of us who have not been following this story can only blame ourselves for our ignorance, and just accept it that what happens now is in the hands of those who are able to follow the jargon and conversational shorthand.

    But perhaps someone would be willing, at least, to post some links to some background.

    Or maybe someone would be willing to take time to write a comment here explaining what this is all about?

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