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On January 5, 2021, the Brattleboro Select Board held a public meeting to discuss the Community Safety Review Committee’s findings and recommendations, in addition to other town issues such as the recommended increase to the Human Services Department budget.

The Community Safety Review Committee convened in September 2020 to provide proposals and recommendations to the Brattleboro Select Board for implementation. During the meeting, the Committee facilitators, Shea Witzberger and Emily Megas-Russell, apprised the Select Board of their research obtained from the three months that the committee spent speaking with community members, several groups and organizations, and the Brattleboro Police Department, as well as analyzing BPD protocols, use of force reports, and other various documents. Based on the research gathered, the committee recommended the town implement, among many, the immediate disarmament of police officers for all nonresponsive tasks (such as community speaking, meetings, and events) and the implementation of Brattleboro Common Sense’s S.A.F.E. Policing proposal by 2025, which calls for the cessation of body-carry for BPD police officers during all regular patrols, particularly during foot patrols and traffic stops.

Today, January 12, as a first step towards the committee’s 2025 goal for complete implementation of S.A.F.E., Brattleboro Common Sense will be asking the Select Board to implement a pilot program of S.A.F.E. Policing, in which BPD officers would obtain 30-plus hours of non-lethal patrol training over a six-month period. During this six-month pilot period, officers would receive on-duty experience and training in non-lethal policing, providing both the Brattleboro Police Department and the Brattleboro community at large the necessary data to implement widespread nonlethal policing on a safe, methodical basis. In accordance with 24 App. V.S.A. ch.107, § 4.06, the Brattleboro Select Board has the legal authority to determine the manner in which BPD officers perform their policing duties, and the equipment with which they do so. Having created and used town funds in forming the Community Safety Review Committee, and with overwhelming community support for general reform, we believe that the Select Board has an obligation to uphold their commitments and implement committee recommendations.

If you’re interested in learning more about the committee’s proposed recommendations, S.A.F.E. Policing, or the S.A.F.E. pilot program, tune in to the Select Board meeting today at 6:15 p.m. via Zoom or visit Brattleboro Common Sense’s website at brattleborocommonsense.org.

Hannah Van Dusen is a member of Brattleboro Common Sense. The opinions expressed by columnists do not necessarily reflect the views of the Brattleboro Reformer.


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