Here’s the Executive Summary from the Community Safety Review report, followed by a pdf of the full report. You can also download this and other related materials on the Town of Brattleboro website. This report will be reviewed and discussed at the next meeting of the Brattleboro Selectboard.
(Note that when I cut and paste this, all instances of “ti” and “tt” were somehow stripped, and I manually replaced them. If you see missing letters here, blame me…)
Executive Summary Overview of the Report
On August 19th, 2020 the Brattleboro Selectboard issued a Request for Proposals (RFP) for an Assessment on Community Safety. The Preamble of the RFP (1 Town of Brattleboro, Request for Proposals: Assessment on Community Safety, August 19th, 2020.) stated,
“As approved by the Selectboard on August 18 and in furtherance of more than 15 hours of public discussions at Selectboard meetings on June 16, July 7, July 21, and August 6 of this year, Brattleboro will begin a focused examination of how Town resources are currently utilized and can be best utilized to ensure equitable and optimal community health, wellness, and safety. The review will examine (but is not limited to): the Brattleboro Police Department, Town support for non-profit organizations, social service agencies and other community resources, as well as identifying currently unmet community needs. This open process will invite in the wealth of knowledge and life experiences that our community holds about police, social services, racism, oppression, and alternatives to punishment and violence. We are working toward a community that is free of white supremacy in all of its manifestations.
This RFP is a call for one or more paid facilitators who will design and facilitate a community focused process to conduct this study, and provide to the Selectboard recommendations on policies, organizational structures, redistribution of resources, and/or further studies needed based on gathered input. This assessment and recommendation will be due by December 31, 2020.”
This report is the culmination of the work of the community safety review process in response to this RFP.
Project Summary and Context
This community safety review process sought to understand the current state of the community safety systems in Brattleboro and their impact on community members’ actual experiences of safety, danger or harm.
The process was led by two core facilitators and informed and guided by a nine-member committee, who each brought their own identities, perspectives and lived experiences. From October through December, we designed and implemented four different styles of information gathering to seek input from community members about their experiences with safety, danger, harm and safety response systems. All community members were welcomed to share their experiences and visions, and we focused our engagement efforts on connecting with individuals who carry marginalized identities and who are most impacted by policing and police-like systems. We heard from over 200 community members and professionals working in over 25 organizaons. We also performed a quality review of the Brattleboro Police Department policies, practices, and some areas of data collection.
This report includes a summary of the activies performed by the facilitators, committee members, and community parcipants, what we learned in our listening and systems review work, and our findings and recommendations. This report was authored and submitted by the core facilitators, with guidance and direction from the committee and significant input from the community.
The Town of Brattleboro has embarked on a courageous and imperative process of evaluating community experiences with safety, danger, harm and policing/safety systems. This step must be followed next by action. Many community members who participated in this process commented on the process itself and the town’s commitment to this inquiry as a hopeful and encouraging sign of hope and change. This effort was celebrated for its coalitional upbringing, the broad community support it received in meetings throughout the summer of 2020, the ways that it addressed accessibility of town processes to a range of people who are structurally disincentived from participating and honored that accessibility in planning and budget, the way it began to compensate the necessary and vital labor of marginalized people, and the depth and openness and honesty that it fostered about problems that are longstanding and often ignored. It would be a great disservice and cause further harm to those who so bravely and vulnerably shared their stories, many of which invoke deep pain, fear and trauma, for this review process not to materialize actual change. Our community eagerly awaits the opportunity to explore what is possible in our town, and to get to work making it happen in ways that honor and build on the legacy of this process.
Summary of Key Findings and Recommendations
We have organized our key findings and recommendations into four categories, in specific order:
- Acknowledge and Reckon with Harm Caused
- Increase Accountability
- Meet People’s Basic Needs and Build Up Alternatives to Policing and Police-Like Safety Responses
- Reduce Police Presence and the Role of Policing
Acknowledge and Reckon with Harm Caused
- Racial bias and profiling are active and current problems in the community, including in Brattleboro Police Department’s response to community safety.
- Police participation and other involuntary interventions in mental, emotional, and spiritual health crisis response is ineffective and often harmful for many community members.
- Department of Children and Families’ (DCF) responses to risk to youth often cause intergenerational trauma and do not address the roots of unsafety for children.
- Some community members expect more of the police than is safe for others.
- The current mechanisms for external review, accountability, or community control of the police department are scarce, inadequate, and ineffective.
- There is little or no accountability around the impact of diversity and inclusion and implicit bias training on the communies that experience the most policing.
Meet People’s Basic Needs and Build Up Alternatives to Policing and Police-Like Safety Responses
- There is a severe lack of truly voluntary support related to mental health, substance use and addiction, and parenting and child protection.
- Consistently across all areas of listening, poverty, homelessness, lack of belonging, and lack of ability to meet basic needs were named as some of the largest threats to our community’s well-being and safety. Voluntary support, mutual aid, projects led by marginalized people, and basic needs like safe housing, good food, and places for belonging and connection are widely recognized as some of the biggest current safety needs in our community.
Reduce Police Presence and the Role of Policing
- Those respondents most impacted by policing want reduced police presence with their communities, not “community policing,” which puts the onus of trust-building on the wrong party.
Our recommendations are outlined in Table 13. Recommendations Timeline. We have provided guidance on the timeframe of recommendations following this key:
● Immediate= FY 2021 (within 6 months)
● Short-term= FY 2022 (within 18 months)
● Mid-term= FY 2023 (within 2 1⁄2 years)
● Long-term= FY 2025 (within 5 years)”
The full Brattleboro Community Safety Report is here: