Selectboard Meeting Notes – Community Safety Committee Presents Findings and Recommendations

brattleboro selectboard jan 5 2021

Marginalized populations of Brattleboro were a common theme for the Brattleboro Selectboard at their first meeting of the new year. They struggled with Human Services funding requests, then listened to an extended overview of the Community Safety report.

Everyone is encouraged to read the full report then return next week for more discussion of this and other topics.

Comments | 6

  • Preliminaries

    Pre-meeting banter about the new year, holidays, Christmas trees, ties and tie clips,…

    Chair Tim Wessel – welcome to the first meeting of the new year. Happy New year. let’s try to practice kindness and staying safe. Some positive cases among Town employees. Protection and health and happiness of employees is important.

    Town Manager Elwell – Two positive tests, outside of the workplace exposure. Employees have been pretty good. Town employee practices are good. Two employees positive, and some temporary quarantines for test results (negative) for others.

    Public Participation


  • Consent Agenda

    A. Acceptance of Annual Audit and Financial Statements for FY20

    B. Purchase of Replacement Vehicle for Animal Control Officer

    so consented

  • Continued Review of FY22 Proposed Budget

    (i) Discussion with Representative Town Meeting’s Human Services Committee

    Elwell – in the continuing review of unfinished items for finalizing your FY22 budget there are half a dozen things to address. One was that you wanted to have the RTM Human Services Committee come and present their request to you in person.

    Wessel – we try to limit the number of boxes here, and when we get past 9 things get small, so we try to keep the ASL boxes large enough to be useful. Use Gallery View to get all of the speakers.

    David Miner, Ann Fielder, John Kennedy, Ain Thompson, Gary Stroud “assemble” on zoom.

    Ann – happy new year. We’re happy to talk about our work. I’ll read the letter that went to you with the spreadsheet. Thanks to the 34 agencies that submitted requests. We appreciate your applications. The funding we recommend is vital to the community. We request funding at the recommended level. (Cat meowing) The committee met – $276,400 requested. We reviewed applications… sorry about my cat. She’s so bossy. She does this all the time. Very bossy. Committee members reviewed applications and financial documents, plus descriptions of services, etc. Our goal as a committee is to ensure the quality of life for people in town. Agencies serve local needs. We considered the size of their finances and funding sources, and their impact. We prioritized food, shelter and basic needs, plus emergency services, and vulnerable populations. We used a vigorous process to score applications. All current members would like to serve again next year.

    Ain – it was my first year and very enjoyable to serve.

    David – I’ve been a long time member of the committee and enjoy the group.

    John –

    Gary – hi, I say hi to everybodyHappy new year. Looking forward to a lot of good things.

    John – my second year. I live in west brattleboro and have enjoyed my two years.

    Ann – we use a rubric to score the application. Everyone scored into the partial or full funding buckets. We fully funded everyone, based on RTM recommendations. It’s not at the 2% mark. Not our policy to give more than they ask for. Questions?

    Daniel Quipp – thank you. The last few years have been challenging at RTM, and I think it is good we have this committee to take a close look at funding requests. In your consideration or requests, did you look and see how this request was a percentage of overall funding. I work for SEVCA – we requested a drop in the bucket of our expenses, but smaller orgs?

    David – it is considered. We also looked at organizations impacted by COVID, and di they get funding from other sources. It was interesting to see what was happening. Every org was impacted one way or another, and they went into detail about what they were doing to remain in contact with clientele – strained budgets caused cooperation – normal avenues for income dried up. We did look at it, and it is one reason we granted the requests that they put in. We rely on them to identify what they need. We also consider operational funds, rather than programs which gives flexibility to survive.

    Ian Goodnow – thank you all for your work. All the orgs that you reviewed scored either partially or fully funded based on the rubric… what is the percentage of partial to fully?

    Ann – we fully funded all..

    Ian – the rubric scores…

    Ann – a good 70% scored pretty high, and a couple just got in under the wire so to speak, some smaller organizations. We felt comfortable with the process. It wasn’t perfect but we did the best we could.

    Tim – it looks like the committee has changed some polices and procedures as of Nov 2020. Is it correct that mentioning 1% funding is because of the RTM actions?

    nn – we were confused. We got marching orders about 2%, and we don’t give out more than what people ask for, so we just held the line at 1.3% or so… 30% more than last year. We are in a funny position between the selectboard and RTM and did not know how to proceed.

    Tim – that makes sense. I’m going to encourage my board to remember it was non-binding and advisory. The proposal was that the board should increase your budget to 2%. You are in a weird position, and us, too. It is our budget, yet you are a town meeting committee. We have to vote to send a number forward. The irony is that the work of selecting got wiped away from this odd year we are having. I think it turns it into a not very democratic situation. The committee made the decision to raise it,… up to 1.3% from what was close to 1%. It doesn’t feel quite right to do it this way. A more democratic way would be for us to send it forward and let RTM bat it around.

    Ann – we thought that might happen. It is up tot he selectboard (dog bark) I have animals galore here.

    Tim – I think.. I’m not sure I have support (dog barking) I do want to urge us to be understanding that sending something over 1% is a big leap going into town meeting. It gets to a larger conversation about the function of the human services budget. I see the way our town is funded, by tax dollars, having three levels of services – essential and basic, quality of life, and down the list is contributions.. that’s what this is, contributions to worthy organizations. But we need to talk about if that is what we want tax dollars going to. Increasingly every year up the budget without that discussion. taxpayers are increasingly worried about being able to stay in town. people on fixed incomes. We have to be careful about changing the mission of municipal government. All are worthy, and it isn’t a large amount of difference in their overall funding…

    Liz McLoughlin – a tangent point to Tim’s… there are people, taxpayers, who are hardworking and on fixed incomes just keeping it together, and we as a board need to be mindful of that. Some say if the board approves this higher budget, then “I won’t be able to donate to charities as they’d like” because the Town is doing it. It’s changed from an individual choice to a town choice. It’s part of the equation we all need to wrestle with. There is a finite amount of funds people have.

    Ann – as a taxpayer, I don’t think what we have now.. we are creating a foundation inside the budget, which I don’t think is appropriate either. The bigger question is “what do you want us to do” and how does the town feel about funding human services agencies. 2% gets to be the size of a charitable organization, and we don’t have the staff – were volunteers – to do justice to that amount of money. That’s my point of view.

    Ain – having worked for non-profits and being a taxpayer – funding human services is something a majority of towns in Windham county do… changing the process changes the precedent. RTM recommended the change, we served as we do. It’s a lot of organizations. We did do due diligence. The nonprofit sector is one of the largest employers in Brattleboro. We all pay taxes, and you are funding businesses when you do this.

    Brandie – when I worked at the bank, something like 40% of businesses in town were non-profits. It is a large employer base. Many folks on fixed incomes used these services – the food shelf… they rely on these services. I’d assume the reason it increase is because the needs have not decreased. Brattleboro used to provide town wide health insurance. I’d support sending this forward with their recommendations.

    Gary Stroud – I agree with Ain and Brandie – these orgs – they are giving back to the community. You are investing in the community and taxes are not going to waste. Us doing this is an example to other communities. It’s good to invest in this. The ends justify the means. A lot of good grows from this.

    Daniel Quipp – yea, if I focus about the budget I know about – SEVCA requested 14k… it is not the entirety of our budget, but think of what SEVCA does to help pay for fuel, electric, and rent… it is way more than $14k… Probably in the low hundreds (don’t quote me on that reporters). It’s a small contribution and Brattleboro gets substantial benefit. It serves the well being of the town.

    Gary – this helps, rich, poor, and all sorts of people. It is an investment in their own future.

    Tim – my concern isn’t worthiness, but the democracy of the situation. Your committee made the decision based on a non-binding resolution at the end of a 12 hour meeting with barely a quorum. We should have that discussion in a binding section of the meeting. This is a back end into increasing the budget without a democratic process.

    Daniel – I hear you, small number of RTM folks has a big impact on town. Do we want to get rid of Human Services from RTM and let the whole town vote on it? Our charter says a small number of people make town decisions. Unless we want to change this…

    Tim – it wasn’t warned or binding, and it compels us to consider increasing, but we usually just pass along as in prior years and let RTM have the argument there, rather than us upping everything? It is a small committee raised the number substantially higher.

    Brandie – even when it is nonbonding we take that more seriously. It came under 2%, that seems excellent. I’m surprised we aren’t just taking their recommendations… especially during the global pandemic. I’m confused.

    Tim – I’m representing a significant…

    Brandie – everyone is representing a lot of people and no one here needs a lecture on democracy. They do all this work and we question it. Fully fund services the community needs…

    Tim – yeah, but… it is a strange position to be in.

    Brandie – the committee voted to move this forward and you said to listen to the committee, and RTM will raise or cut it.

    Ann – the vote was unanimous.

    Ian – A couple fo things. I don’t like questioning the process of RTM when it is a quorum. There are issues with how long it goes. I hear your poiun, Tim, but it can be used in a lot of other ways… what it comes down to, RTM passed with quorum a non-binding resolution that this committee approved, and no matter what we do RTM look at it anyways, so why not send it along. They are an RTM committee.

    Tim – I agree, but the proposal is the selectboard consider, and we haven’t done that consideration. From the official minutes (reads minutes) – says selectboard should consider raising to 2%.

    Peter Elwell – I offer that what you are doing right now is giving consideration to the level of funding up to 2%. The committee isn’t requesting 2%, but do you increase from last year’s amount? You are giving your consideration and deciding to take the advice or let RTM decide it. Some years it goes where the budgets are the same, and sometimes not. The board needs to decide tonight or soon about the level of funding you want to include in the recommended budget.

    Ian – that really helps. Then, it is an increase from 1.1% to 1.4% – 66k more.

    Tim – decide tonight or…

    Cassandra – can you hear me. Wouldn’t it be helpful to have the conversation before they go through applications? It seems after the fact to do it now. If I were on the committee I’d rather it happen earlier.

    Tim – yeas, I agree. Previously, the amount was based on 1%. When that was removed, in November, that took away that guideline.

    Daniel – when the public speaks, can we get introductions… if that is Cassandra that I think it is, she gets significant funds from this, so we should get introductions.

    Ain – as a committee member, it would have changed the process to know this up front. We would have made different decisions. We believed we were working in the town’s interest.

    Ann – it would have been helpful – this was an unusual year for us and we were in the dark and did our best.

    Liz – maybe this is a bad year to put the toothpaste back in the tube and we should wait until after COVID.

    Dick DeGray – I give you kudos for raising the issue. This isn’t a debate about whether the services are important or not, it is about the affordability of our town. Rents keep going up and the Town is getting more expensive because of things happening at town meeting and no one wants to be accountable. You could raise it to 10% and it wouldn’t be enough. Many things happen under RTM other business that we aren’t compelled to follow. I agree, there needs to be a larger discussion. Every year the human services budget goes up. Why? Did reps talk to people who asked for this? We’re in a circle chasing our tail and we need a larger discussion. The process has been fouled up and everyone is afraid to talk about it. There are agencies that don’t seek funding. It’s about affordability and where do we draw the line?

    Tim – move on?

    Cassandra – I am cassandra holloway, not speaking on behalf of the organization but as a person in town. Not advocating for the 2%, just the process.

    Daniel – I want people to be held to the same standards, and know where people are coming from.

    Jess Gelter – homeowner in Brattleboro, on Planning Commission. A couple fo thoughts. Town Plan reflects reliance on a lot of nonprofits to fulfill our vision and the selectboard approved the town plan. To Degray’s point about affordability. I’m lower income – we got a homestead subsidy. so I am excited about that money going to human services because I use some of those programs.

    Ian – We have a lot to talk about tonight but this has been helpful and I think I’ve moved on this. It doesn’t make sense to vote for the proposed amount if the direction from RTM wasn’t clear enough… doesn’t make sense to put this forward. If RTM needs to clarify, we shouldn’t support a not-clearly defined funding increase when RTM can provide more clarity.

    Ain – we discussed it at length. I was there at RTM when it was voted, and we discussed it at length in the committee, and this board didn’t say not to fund 2%. If the board had wanted it different, we should have known before we did all this work. RTM told us what to do, and we discussed, and Tim is taking issue with the number. If you gave us another number we would have worked with that.

    Tim – I get that, but normally we just pass the number along, but the wording.. it is confusing. It’s not our committee. The snake eating its own tail. Where is the origin. I appreciate the committee’s work.

    Ian – do we need to vote on this tonight? I’d like more time. I want to dig in a little more.

    Daniel – what would you propose sending forward other than this?

    Ian – what staff proposed – same as last year.

    Ain – that was a placeholder, not a proposal.

    Peter Elwell – every year, staff respect this is a difficult process for community, but it is not ours to propose a course of action. Annual process is to bring last year’s number as a placeholder and will change based on the committee, board and RTM. Not a staff proposal for human services.

    Daniel – so, what to send to RTM. How would we arrive at this other than what the committee has done?

    Ian – yes, I hear you. I read a 240 page report this week.

    Daniel – me, too.

    Ian – lots of interesting points, I’d like to wait, but I do respect the committee, but I’d like more time, but if you want to make a motion…

    Robin Morgan – I’m really surprised selectboard members not wanting to approve this and let RTM figure it out. I’ve tried every year to get an increase at RTM, but I’m told a specific item can’t be increased, just a recommendation. WE asked the human service committee to come up with a higher number. If you don’t pass this and kick it back, at RTM they’ll say we can’t increase a line item.

    Tim – aline item within the budget?

    Elwell – so, both things are correct. Robin is true about the vast majority of the budget. They don’t have they own articles at RTM. If it has its own article, it can be amended. like this item. They can be modified, and this one gets modified.

    Daniel -I’m not in the mood to discuss it for another hour at another meeting, but if we do it quick we can give Ian time.

    Tim – thanks so much for your work…

  • Procedures for March 2, 2021, Town Meeting Day Election

    Absentee Ballots Upon Request vs. Mailing of Ballots to All Active Registered Voters

    Elwell – this is what might be authorized in the next few weeks…

    Hilary Francis – I sent a memo – do you want me to read it and insert some additional info or to summarize? (summarize!) There is pending emergency legislation to be voted on in mid-January. If it gets passed we need to plan now. If passed, Towns can mail ballots to all active voters if board chooses to, and date of town meeting day can be moved. If you decide you want us to mail ballots, we need to start that process a few months ago. It is surprising, but my recommendation is we go with the process we usually do, which is to let people request ballots, rather than mail en masse. A number of reasons. Logistically, the deadline for candidate forms in Jan 25th. Once we have that we need to put together a ballot and get it printed and get them back to us in early Feb. We test them. Early voting starts Feb 10. If we mail to all, that’s 8k voters. We won’t have time to get them back if we mail to all. We thought about hiring a mailing house – but takes away some of our control. Errors and bounced back ballots can happen. We can’t pack our office with volunteers. Logistics are a big concern. Turnout isn’t expected to be that high. mailing to all might increase that. We had more voters in November and the percentage of turnout was lower than 4 years ago. I don’t know if it would increase it. The funding for full mailing isn’t in our budget. WSESD is holding a meeting by australian ballot the same day, and they aren’t mailing to all. Just requests for mailed in ballots. It would be good to have both ballots the same. I’m eager to do everything possible to increase voter participation, and healthy. This may not be the answer. There may be other legislation that will look at election laws in general, changing deadlines, etc, and it will be up to towns as how to do local elections. Making voting easy and accessible is a very good thing. The one drawback to mass mailing ballots is it favors a particular demographic – people in homes that don’t move much. Those less stable will have to call us every time thy move to ge a ballot sent. It favors a demographic. Board of Civil Authority wants to work to make sure people request ballots, with a mailing to everyone and promotions.

    Liz – I respect the points brough forth. WE should do the same as schools, so I like this strategy.

    Daniel – I was the squeaky wheel on this, and I want to discuss this in public, so the public understands why we aren’t mailing ballots to everyone. I first wanted ballots mailed to everyone. Town Meeting Day election is what ends up getting us elected, so we need people to show up. A couple of thousand vote for us? I accept the reasons given for recommending we don’t issue ballots to all. I have some questions. In Aug you requested a ballot and in November ballots were mailed. Will people to make new request?

    Hilary – people need to make a new request, for the new calendar year. Too much transition to do it “forever” so state requires annual basis.

    Daniel – it seems like we’ll do this. I hope we’ll all do that everyone knows they need to request a ballot, there won’t be unperson early voting, and I hope we have as many turnout as possible. We’re going to put the retail cannabis question on there… it is a big question for the Town this year. I want easy access to this election, safely.

    Liz – I respect Daniel for wanting to have this conversation in public.

    Ian – same thing – thanks for bringing it up. Thanks, Hilary. I respect your opinion on this. We did it like this in August and did it successfully with good turnout, and that was important to me.

    Brandie – Hilary I trust you and your staff, and it is logistical. I agree with Daniel, but I fully trust your judgement. It’s an interesting point about favoring a demographic. Thanks for bringing that up.

    Tim – I echo everyone’s thanks.

    Elwell – unless the selectboard decides otherwise we’ll follow her recommendations.

  • Community Safety Review

    Tim – this is important and we’ll start with a report from the facilitators, but we’ll first have a break. 5-0 on nodding heads for a break. Back at 8:05

  • Community Safety Review

    (i) Presentation of Final Report and Recommendations

    (ii) Initial Discussion of Potential Selectboard Actions

    Tim – I propose that we want to make space for the facilitators to present the lengthy and complex document they submitted at the end of the year, and we’ll be listeners – the board and the community – and I suggest that if we have questions we do it later after we give them a chance to present, and limit ourselves to procedural stuff to understand the scope, give it a week, then come back to take it up again.

    Emily MR and Shea W… and Lana D.

    Daniel – this is a big document can you refer to page numbers…

    Shea – the pdf has a clickable table of contents. Questions can be answered at the end.

    (119 people online for this meeting)

    Emily – this large report and a big topic, so I’d like to do what we’ve been doing in our meetings. Voluntary! Close your eyes, take a moment to bring attention inward into your body and as you scan your body examine how it feels to be in this virtual space together, if you can. Is there a part of the body that makes you feel more grounded, or is connected to the ground, and see if you can bring your bread to this part of your body. Take one more breath and release it. I also want to take a moment o appreciation for all the people behind this report. Thanks to the community and those who shared with us. We hold that sharing in deep reverence and are grateful. Thanks to the committee for a dynamic and vast piece of work. And for showing up during hard times. To the selectboard for taking this on, and for Peter Elwell who is an infinitely helpful person, and to Mark Carignan for police info, and town employees.

    Emily – a bit of context of how we got here. We submitted our proposal and it was selected and our report is inline with what we proposed. We said we’d commit to protecting confidentiality and it was a huge challenge to balance privacy and openness of public process. We prioritized the stories shared with us and we are able to share it without violating, and now others can know they can share, confidentially. This work is never about one person or individual, it is about the community experience and the systems we currently have in place to meet our needs. One of the things we found is the community relies on their own networks for safety and community safety is in the purview of the town. We also proposed that we set out to focus on centering on the voices most impacted by policing. All of our public meetings and our survey were open to all. We had listening sessions that were more safely held containers. We heard from a whole bunch of people but we set out to listen primarily to those most impacted. We established committee tasks – creating questions, a survey, public forums, reviewing policies, performing tracers, and sharing our findings. The report was written and submitted by Shea and myself, and the committee was critical in the tasks I just named. Thanks to ASL interpreters, too. So, to wrap up, we committed to antiracism. Good intentions don’t necessarily lead to good results. Including ours. Two of our committee agreements were to hold space for good intentions and to acknowledge and apologize when we trust one another, even unintentionally. There are several instance of programs and practices intended to do good things are actually causing negative impact. We need to acknowledge the good intention of the ideas, but we need to reckon with the harmful impact and repair that harm to creat alternatives grounded in the visions of those most impacted by this.

    Shea – There was another headline about lack of accountability, and some people feel there is no chance of change and dismissal is likely. Summary – you can see in the TOC the general scope of the project, and then we’ll dig into the middle. There is an executive summary, some context of how we got there – nationally and locally, history, project scope and methods, about the team, our measures for success, then two big sections – community listening and organizational listening. They aren’t separate.

    Emily – parallel projects in town are also highlighted…

    Shea – existing work about fairness and migrants and firearms and getting police officers out of school – parallel projects.

    Shea – listening – starts on page 28. Impossible for me to walk through it all. It is a large part of the report and already summarized and condensed here. It’s a neat and tidy summary of a vast amount of information, so I’ll just share a slice. If I tried to do it all, we’d be here many, many hours. I’ll share how and why, and slices of that information. And encourage to read the rest. In community listening we talked to so many people – over 200 community members – and 128 responses to our online survey, and a bunch of targeted listening groups. We had a listening session about the mental health system, BIPOC, youth concerns, and some cofacilitators to do some some assisting. Also asked community groups to share info with their clients. Outreach with Groundworks… COVID was a profound limitation on doing this. We held two public forums and some conversations with individuals. Limitations included COVID and time. We had to listen online. Couldn’t be at a shelter. Time was a limit. We started in Sept and ended Dec 31. We were going to delegate more listening to the committee, but one organization had a concern about safety for organizational listening and confidentiality. We wanted to figure out how to earn about this topic – areas of success, areas of threat, experiences, and visions of solutions. Within that there are many sections. On page 31. The committee wrote the questions. We organized the information by that and total respondents, and by identity category. Read the section about limitations to listening sessions. Some didn’t share all of their identities. In surveys, many named additional ways they identified. We have heard an urge to qualify this… how many? It isn’t useful or possible. Qualitative information allows us to be more accurate. A strong theme was policing was a threat to the community. We can’t say 28.8% said this, but we can share the strongly held feelings. It is a component of white supremacy culture to want to quantify.

    Shea – so let’s do one little slice to see how it is all organized. I can’t summarize cleanly what’s already summarized. Look at the section about experiences with police and what black respondents had to say. We have total respondents, and by various identifiers. Among black respondents was – police are systematically racist, feel unable to call police when in danger, threats were about policing, and visions for the future were about changing policing. A few said they had positive experiences with Brattleboro police, but almost all witnessed racism or profiling. Said it was a system of white supremacy. Many named the historic origins of policing to catch slaves and protect property. Many had lots of skepticism about this process making any change. Named problems with the complaint process with police. One said they were pulled over and were searched for being Black and brown, and what that means for people who see it happen. Wrongful arrests, mistaken identities. Calling the police and being criminalized for calling. Use of force. Police sexual violence elsewhere and some here. People shared interrupting profiling and was criminalized for doing so. Lots of people shared about a lack of accountability, and not helping when support is needed. There are lots of specific stories can’t be shared due to specifics making them identifiable and possibility of retaliation. Police not helping, making people scared…. being harassed … many quotes that represent the themes or divergence from the themes. An appendix at the end has other quotes. So that’s one little section of this. I think I’ll leave it for now and you can ask for more later. I encourage people to read the report. I can’t do justice to it.

    Shea – The organizational listening happened similarly. 39 unique responses, workers from 22 organizations. Talked with 25 orgs via Zoom. This info is organized by field, and what people in that field have to say and what other people outside the field say about it. What do law enforcement and court folks and dept of corrections have to say about their work? What themes emerged? What about outside views of that field? We thought we’d be able to make a map. People used this space to whistleblow about workplaces – they were also afraid of doing so, so we had to have more confidentiality and couldn’t do the map of connections. Informal connections are important – many call the police when they need help. We were able to map types of responses leading to types of outcomes. It is self evident that some intervention are harmful and some are supportive. That’s the biggest picture. This isn’t about me – it is other people’s experiences. There was a lot of sharing

    Emily – I thank you so much for your labor and emotional labor and the pain you were holding. I’ve been describing the listening work as the heart and guts, so read the report and appendix. In many way, it shows the difference of the qualitative data gathering, and the integrity of experiences. If one person experiences trauma we need to listen. And it is not one person. Part of the work I captained was the review of police. There is quantitative data to share here, and the report has all the numbers and tables. It was a quality review of policies, procedures, and outcomes. Is the system meeting objectives or needs? We’re assessing the police department as a system and policing as an infrastructure and how does it meet community safety. I had a lot of help from one committee member – and two others. Early on the committee was able to get involved and dig into that data. We had some committee involvement. No decisions made, just information gathering. Committee members could be involved with other tasks. For some, the weekly commitment was enough and others could do a lot more. In this quality review, we found a lot of data to support what we heard. We reviewed polices and procedures, manuals, contracts, job descriptions, and reviewed data they manage as a department. The details in the report are recommendations directed toward the incoming police chief, to look at that feedback, but it informs the larger work we are doing. We also reviewed meeting minutes from the CPCC (page 114). We also research national models for citizen police oversight. It is a national struggle, for a number of reasons. The CPCC focuses on facilitating mutually respectful conversations regarding complaints and compliments. We didn’t find any system of accountability. It is about community relations, working things out. No evidence of attempts of accountability or policy and procedure review, no trend analysis. They meet month, or not meet if there is not complaints. Didn’t meet 8 of 12 months in 2020. The Dept handled all complaints internally and CPCC may review a complaint and the police response. In the last 2 years, we saw no instances of the CPCC challenging a police complaint. I found potential trends in racial bias and discrimination. CPCC is focused on individual complaints. Accountability is currently ineffective.

    Emily – we also looked at training. There was a reduction in train in 2020, due to COVID. We found in our review, when we ask about planned use of increased training budget, in our listening work it became clear to us that the intended impact of DEI taring is not likely to happen given the readiness of the department for that level of training. People have to be wiling, and we found that a readiness assessment for that training and for it to reduce racial bias… our recommendation is we slow down and look in the mirror and admit that racial bias is alive and happening here, how do we adequately address it? It is a huge initiative and quick training won’t solve it.

    Emily – mental health, forced treatment – it was a big theme that increased participation in mental health increases policing and use of force and intimidation. There is a lack of voluntary support. There is a fast track to involuntary treatment, which is functional incarcerations, plus use of force. Often someone is called for mental health has force used on them by multiple respondents… police and hospitals. Police say they aren’t equipped to do mental health work. Collaboration between police and social work embeds police in the mental health system.

    Shea – the intention is to be collaborative, but the effect is to expand the scope of policing. Most helpful is reducing the scope. Pulling back the policing reduces harm.

    Emily – we reviewed use of force data. We found in 2019, 17% of use of force cases , the subject was Black. Much higher than the population numbers of Black people living in Brattleboro, and demonstrates racial bias and discrimination. There are also numbers around metal health responses, and in cases where there are no charges.

    Shea – functional criminalization – criminalized poverty, mental health, etc. despite good intentions. People are forced to take drugs, be locked up, can’t call anyone… due to mental health issue. Police are asked to do too much.

    Emily – on page 130 the charts start – in 25% there were no charges in 2019. It is important to a lot of what police respond to are citizens calling for help on behalf of someone.

    Shea – just thinking someone needs help…

    Emily – top offense types are suspicious person – 16%, then animal problems (sometimes cows), agency assists…

    Shea – people tell us they can’t use institutions that use the police, so there is no one to call.

    Emily #4 is trespass, then welfare checks, … the rest of the codes are 1-4%. Violent crime is a very small percentage. Our arrest rate indicates that most of what the police are doing is not criminal activity. Arrests are also subject to racial bias. Some non-arrest work is related to arrests, like investigations.

    Emily – we did a tracer – we got all the info and followed it chronologically. I did 16 use of force traces. Where the subject was black and no charge happened, or a mental health call. Pg 113. A number of things we can draw from these tracers. Some really concerning stuff. Haven’t had a firearm used in last 2 years, but one person of color killed in last 10 years. Non compliant handcuffing is considered a used of force in Brattleboro. There were some uses of deescalation strategies. One big concern is that when training was used as justification for use of force on people it is meant to serve. If they use use of force they have to fill to a document. It is a sentence starter… I know through training and experience… that people can be violent and unpredictable. There are more examples and incidents. I’ll finish up here….

    Shea – it was abroad scope…

    Emily – traffic stop data… another area of concern. There is some info on department policy and traffic stops, and racial disparities in traffic stops study done at Univ of VT. Brattleboro is “about the worst” despite being so progressive here. It felt dissonant. The author is available to talk with y’all and the police chief. Most concerning data from this – in the raw data – you can see that some of this, the town could dig deeper into what’s happening. Some of the most critical on pg 144 – Black and Hispanic drivers are overstepped. We heard this resoundingly.

    Shea – almost everyone said it. “So much more than my white partner…”

    Emily – Black drivers are overstepped between 31-60+% and hispanic folks are overstepped 46% of the time. Less likely for safety reasons, but more for pretextural reasons. The arrest rate was more than 4x white drivers. The decision that lead to a search are supposed to demonstrate the search is likely to result in contraband. Although Black folks were more likely to be searched, they were less likely to be found with contraband.

    Shea – and unreasonable searches. Hockey equipment being probable cause. I’m seeing a glaze as we lecture everyone., take a moment. This is the thing we’re all waiting for. The key findings and recommendations. I want to share that this is in our bodies and we feel defensive about racism. This is the meat.

    Lana – sad that we have to do this work to tell you what people in the community already know. Didn’t need to spend money if you had just listened in the first place. The quibble over the Human Services budget, I don’t want to hear quibbling over the terror people feel in the community. I hope this changes hearts and minds. If it doesn’t, for god’s sake, open a history book. You might feel defensive. My body is on fire.

    Shea – I don’t want to dilute experiences or soften words, and hope we can agree on some targeted measures. Not sweeping, or slashing, but very specific.

    Shea – our four areas

    Emily – they are in order

    Shea – #1 acknowledge and reckon with harm caused. Can’t change unless we say we need to change…. (reads list). We have a timeline to implement this. Things we can start now, next budget season, in the next few years, and horizonal. Pg 150. Bias and profiling are active. Police intervention can be harmful. DCS can be harmful. Some expect more of police than others. We recommend consider this report immediately, acknowledge the harm , etc, in report, publicly commit to address these issues, operationalize the commitment in town budgets, avoid a return to business as usual.

    Emily – our second section is increasing accountability – current conditions are scare or inadequate. Lack of external review. Little accountability around racial bias or training. Training doesn’t do it. Need an internal process. Not just police but town and community.

    Shea – We need to improve data collection, disband the CPCC, hold a process for people of color for best process of accountability – not everyone agrees. CPCC isn’t working. Suspend paid administrative leave for police charged with violent crime, withheld pensions and don’t rehire those with use of force violations, freeze increase in training budget and focus on effective training. Include an assessment of supervisor and officer readiness, plus people from impacted communities, working together to determine best path forward. Connect with pay local content experts. If they won’t work with police, determine why. Acknowledge harm, fix it, do deep work together.

    Shea – the third area is to meet people’s basic needs. A sever lack of true voluntary support – almost all current paths involve the police and may criminalize poverty, homelessness,, etc. In addition to systemic racism, basic needs are the big concern. If we support these it will support safety of everyone.

    Emily – recommendations for basic needs – prioritize spending of safe housing, food, community gardens, food production, etc. In the next budget cycle. Relates to human services funding. Invest in new and helpful programs, such as mutual aid, decoupled from policing, in the next budget cycle. Voluntary and non-coercive support, a crisis or freak out space, to unburden the police and the ER system holding mental health patients. There are several footnotes with more info.

    Shea – there is an appendix of mental health ideas…

    Emily – suspicious activity as the highest percentage of calls – they call police because no one else to call.. they want someone else to call.

    Shea – Not necessarily authorities. This could lower burden on agencies and systems in town and allow more room for overall help.

    Emily – many of us white folks are reckoning with historical and present day harms, marginalized communities have know this and created their own support systems, and they are unfunded.

    Emily – reduce police presence, not community policing, not police in schools. Trust building is placed on the wrong party. Continue demilitarized equipment, adopt fair and impartial policing, limit contact with ICE, and… pg 165 has details. Review Project CARE and get to know actual outcomes with data. Move project CARE oversight away from police. Increase accountability around harm, consider decoupling traffic safety stops from police. Unarmed traffic safety team is an alternative. Eliminate police and social worker connection, decouple police from welfare checks, reduce PR and policing initiatives that marginalize people and don’t increase safety. Adopt Bratt Common Sense proposal to eliminate firearms. Decrease raise to cost of living increases…. etc. (read the report says me…)

    Shea – we know it is a small town, a small system, mixed feelings about domestic violence response by police.. until there are alternatives, those people have no one else to call. We heard concerns about what not to do, and what we could do easily, and areas of tension. There was a surprising amount of agreement. keep in mind we were asked to focus on the least-often heard – the most marginalized, and what to do to reduce harm to them. Lots of info and ideas here, tailored for Brattleboro. We have alignment and agreement and have already compromised to make this workable. We can’t please everyone. We did a lot fo labor, more than we’ll bill you for, to make sure these recommendations are considered.

    Emily – and where the harm outweighs accountability.

    Shea – I want to hear from you and others, but elevate the voices of those who have had the most experience in the system. People aren’t being listened to by you – people don’t come to these meetings because their perspectives will be dismissed. If we pretend all are equal here, we erase what we’ve learned. It would just be two white people doing work.

    Tim – thank you both.

    Shea – thank you…

    Tim – we need the deep breathing now…

    Emily – one collected breath.

    Tim – to recap, and a time-check, we had a target of an hour for the presentation, but it is now 2 hours, which I expected. A lot of info. We agreed we’d open things up a little to committee members that want to add things and board members that want to ask clarifying questions. We’re at our break time… we have people who want to talk after the break… community feedback has to happen at the next meeting. We need to digest this. Not fair to get in heavy duty tonight.

    They are taking a break until 10:10. I am taking a break until next week’s meeting… : )

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