I’m attaching two PDF files here that are part of the upcoming Brattleboro Selectboard meeting.
The first is Town Manager Peter Elwell’s memo to the board regarding implementing the community safety recommendations. He gives some background information, acknowledges harm and a commitment to reckoning and collaboration, has some notes about the pace and timeframe of changes, accountability, and a bit about the way they annotated the recommendations.
The second is the list of the recommendations, now annotated by the Town with remarks. Of the 41 recommendations, 30 are marked with a “Yes” indicating that the Town can take unilateral action to accomplish the goal. Those marked “No” aren’t out of the question, but they are out of the Town’s direct control. State or federal changes would be required.
Let’s begin with the 11 items that are marked “No.” I’ll use the document’s new numbering as I refer to them for easier reference.
5. Improve data integrity in collection and analysis; Address gap in reporting race data in traffic stops and all data collection. (The reason this didn’t get an unqualified “Yes” is because the collection of data relies on state and national databases.)
6. Improve data integrity in collection and analysis…. (Same answer as #5)
8. Suspend the use of paid administrative leave for police under investigation for acts of harm and for police charged with violent crime through change in policy. (This doesn’t get a “Yes” because the 14th Amendment calls for due process for public employees before disciplinary action.)
9. Withhold pensions and do not rehire police who are involved in excessive force violations. (No “Yes” here because the Town already screens out new hires for excessive use of force, and pensions are controlled by the state and VT Municipal Employees Retirement System.)
15. Review and consider models for totally voluntary and non-coercive supports run by the communities they are designed to support, in the form of neuro-divergent, psychiatrically labeled, psychiatrically disabled, mad, and psychiatric survivor led mobile ready response, a crisis/freak out space, and unlocked, homelike crisis beds. Work collaboratively toward implementation of alternative mental health supports. (This doesn’t get a hard “no” so much as a note that funding is up to RTM and the selectboard, and that implementation could be complex. There is a suggestion to look at what others are doing and to explore possibilities.)
18. Review and consider models for neighborhood and community training around de-escalation, holding space, and directly supporting those in distress, NOT training that advocates for calling in authorities or assessors or that bring people into more contact with police or metal health crisis response. Invest in neighborhood and community groups developing these skills. (same qualifications as #15)
27. Deeply review Project Care impact and outcomes. Move Project Care funding to COSU or out of the PD, and have a transparent, accountable process around its function and any associated hiring. (This doesn’t get an unqualified “Yes: because the Town suggests Project Care possible move to a non-profit organization, having the PD participate or not depending on benefits to the program, and funding decisions are made by Selectboard and RTM.)
30. Consider steps to decouple traffic safety management from the police. This will reduce officer workload. (Development of a non-police, unarmed traffic safety management division by 2025). (This gets a “no” because state statute restricts traffic enforcement to law enforcement. That said, the Town is open to looking at how others have done it, and going forward if the state ever allows it.)
32. Use funding to invest in non-coercive supports as alternatives to police and police-like interventions in mental and emotional health, housing, and access to family supports as detailed above. (Same answer as #15)
33. Work to decouple police from welfare checks. (same as #15)
34. Work toward alternatives listed above that do not use force, coercion, or (psychiatric) incarceration to support individual and community mental health and wellness. This will reduce officer workload. (same as #15)
At first glance, it appears that the Town is saying “Yes” to almost everything.
Readers should be cautioned that many of the items in the “yes” category depend on the selectboard’s approval, an approved change to the budget, or more research before they can be adopted. It might be safest to think of these as “Yes, Town staff are open to these changes if the selectboard and RTM direct us to do them.”
Hurdles remain, but doors are now there to be opened.
Here’s what the Town is suggesting to the board as possibilities:
- The entire section on acknowledging and reckoning, with a note that it is beginning and will be ongoing.
- Disband the CPCC and creating some new form of oversight
- Freeze the PD training budget
- Work with impacted individuals to improve police training
- Avoid known harmful training programs
- Improve work to meet people’s basic needs
- Invest in mutual aid support networks and other helpful programs
- Expand restorative justice to a neighborhood level
- Continue to refuse militarized equipment
- Strengthen the Fair and Impartial Policing commitment by adopting stronger policies
- Increase accountability around traffic stops
- Analyze racial disparities in traffic stop data
- De-couple police from animal control responses
- Eliminate the police social work liaison program
- Change community relations programs such as police speaking at events
- Remove community engagement quotas for officers
- No more budget increases beyond cost of living for police department
- Reduce overtime budget and use
- Disarm police for non-responsive tasks
- Adopt S.A.F.E. policing policy
- Read the full document to see all of the staff notes to each of these items, and what might be required before each can move forward.
Also, a reminder to read the full Community Safety Report to understand why these recommendation are being made and why the Town is interested addressing these issues.