On March 1, voters in Dummerston, Putney, and Marlboro voted by overwhelming majorities to call on the Windham County Sheriff’s Department to make changes to its Fair and Impartial Policing policy, as advocated by Migrant Justice’s No Más Polimigra campaign. These changes are aimed at ensuring the safety of immigrant, refugee, and other BIPOC Vermonters, and would limit the ability of local law enforcement to collaborate with federal deportation agencies.
Similar reforms have already been instituted in eight jurisdictions around the state, including Brattleboro and the Addison County Sheriff’s department. It is clear that the voters in Windham County, the sheriff’s constituents, are eager to see the No Más Polimigra reforms incorporated into Windham County’s Fair and Impartial Policing Policy as well. At present, Sheriff Anderson’s objections to following the will of the voters are based on assertions of the personal good will of local police, and the unlikelihood that any of them would collaborate with federal immigration authorities, even if the policy in place would allow them to do so.
The Windham County No Más Polimigra campaign calls on Sheriff Anderson to implement the voters’ desired changes immediately, for the following reasons:
• We cannot leave county residents and visitors vulnerable. County residents, visitors, and passers-through who are immigrants — or at risk of being perceived as such based on their identities or physical appearances — should not be forced to live with a looming threat of massive personal upheaval and ruin and the immobility such a threat creates. It is immoral to delay these protections any longer.
• Only written policy grants protection. Civil rights protections are not in place or enforceable until they are written into policy. Right now, deputies can discriminate at their discretion, and cannot be held formally accountable if they do. The internal culture of the department, kind-hearted though it may be, does not diminish that threat. Written policy changes will ensure that all officers in the sheriff’s department know what is expected, rather than leaving decisions about collaboration with ICE to individual discretion and gambling on officers’ largesse.
• Making the reforms is within the bounds of Vermont law. The Vermont Attorney General has approved all eight reformed policies as being in compliance with state requirements, and all eight jurisdictions have implemented the stronger policy without any legal repercussions.
• The reforms are simple. The proposed improvements are clear and straightforward. In addition to providing increased protections, they also make the policy easier to understand and implement for officers on the ground.
• Changed policies are easily approved. In the jurisdictions around Vermont where these reforms have been implemented, the attorney general has approved the policy changes quickly and without issue. When the town of Brattleboro implemented the same changes, they were approved in one month.
There is no reason for the sheriff to continue making excuses to ignore the will of the voters. We call on Sheriff Anderson to make the proposed reforms without delay.
To learn more about the reforms and add your name to the growing list of Windham County residents in support of safety for immigrant and BIPOC Vermonters, go to www.caspvt.org/no-mas-polimigra.