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Brooks Memorial Library, in Brattleboro, Vt., held a meet and greet event with the new police chief, Norma Hardy, on Wednesday, Aug. 18, 2021.

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BRATTLEBORO — The Brattleboro Police Department is demanding that people stop sending racist comments to its new police chief.

“We have recently received some racially biased memes and comments, aimed at our chief of police, via instant message,” states a post to the BPD’s Facebook page. “This behavior should stop immediately.”

“We’ve posted before that hate has no place in Brattleboro,” states the message on Facebook. “There is also no place for hate on this page, including instant messages.”

In response, nearly three dozen readers have posted notes of support to the department and Chief Norma Hardy, who came to Brattleboro in late July after spending 26 years with the Police Department of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. Hardy served as the chief of that department, the first black woman to do so. When Brattleboro hired her, Hardy became the first black woman to head a police department in Vermont.

According to the Brattleboro Police Department, the racist messages have been coming from one person. The department declined to identify that individual at this time.

“I’m so sorry you’re having to deal with that,” wrote Select Board member Jessica Callahan Gelter. “We are so lucky and grateful to have you here.”

“We support you Chief Hardy,” wrote Sherri Keefe. “There is no place for this kind of hate in our community.”

“Chief Hardy, our community is truly blessed to have you here in Brattleboro,” wrote Shan Marie. “Please know that a few bad apples do not represent the majority.”

“I can’t believe some people have the nerve to actually put their hate out there like that,” wrote Raymond Giddings. “That’s NOT what the First Amendment is all about.”

Ron Pickering posted that whoever has been sending the hate messages should be prosecuted.

“Brattleboro is better than that,” he wrote. “I was born and raised in this town, and it sure has changed and NOT for the better.”

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“That’s blatant harassment as well as a hate crime and should be prosecuted,” agreed Michelle Lee. “Hate has no home ANYWHERE.”

“Stay strong and stay the course,” wrote Shawn Bracebridge, the pastor of Dummerston Church. “These fragile individuals who are ‘threatened’ by a black woman need to find a hobby to replace the perseveration on their racism and sexism.”

Others noted that this is evidence that Vermont still has much work to do in addressing hatred.

“Such behavior is disgusting and evidences the racism, homophobia and transphobia that is actually endemic to Vermont,” wrote Ava Lafferty.

“I have lived here long enough, and witnessed enough during my time here, that I am sadly unsurprised,” wrote Klara Charlton. “If anyone has friends like this, maybe it is time to explain to them that this is the 21st century, and most people are done with this nonsense.”

Selectboard Chairwoman Liz McLoughlin said she was “disgusted” that someone would direct hateful posts at Chief Hardy, but that she was “gratified to see the community rally around Norma.”

Town Manager Peter Elwell agreed with McLoughlin’s comments and added that he would be addressing the matter further in his Town Manager’s Comments at the Select Board meeting Tuesday evening.

Hardy also received a message of support from Gov. Phil Scott.

“The Governor unequivocally condemns any hate speech and all acts of racism,” stated spokeswoman Rebecca Kelley, in an email to the Reformer. “The Governor feels strongly we are fortunate to have recently welcomed Chief Hardy to Vermont, and these messages are not representative of who we are as a Vermonters.”

Hardy declined the opportunity to comment on the matter.

Bob Audette can be contacted at raudette@reformer.com.