Letter: Community policing wins awards - but is it 'color blind?'
Editor of the Reformer,
I would like to congratulate the Brattleboro Police Department on their recently being awarded the New Association of Chiefs of Police Community Policing award, as a reported in your Aug. 22 edition. Their efforts are admirable, but I fear may be affected by the color of a person's skin.
Members of the local chapter of the NAACP are currently involved in an ongoing dialogue with the Brattleboro Police Department in what appears to be a case of racial profiling. On July 3, a member of the local NAACP noticed two young black men walking along Putney Road, as he was headed south to drop his daughter off at the Circus Camp. On returning up Putney Road he again saw the young men walking north. He waved at them — they flagged him down, telling him that they had been pulled over by the police on I-91 the previous evening for having something hanging from their rear view mirror. They had been on their way home to New York City.
Their car was impounded, and driven to the Brattleboro Police Station. A police officer apparently drove them there also, in a separate car. They told the NAACP member that they had been held in a cell for several hours and then told to leave the station and return in the morning for their car. They were walking up Putney Road trying to find the police station that morning. There was no discussion of where they had spent the night in a totally strange town. The NAACP member gave them a lift to the station, and saw them enter the building. He apologized for what had happened to them and gave them his cell number if they needed any further help. He did not question them further, fearing to seem intrusive.
All this was communicated to me and the president of the local NAACP that day, July 3. We requested a meeting with the Brattleboro Police Department and were given a time for such a meeting on Aug. 5, more than a month after the incident. The three of us met with a captain on the 5th, and retold the incident. He tried to find a record of what had occurred, but after searching for quite some time, was unable to find any such record. He assured us that he would keep looking and would get back in touch with us.
To date no record of any part of this incident has been found. As community and NAACP members, we are very troubled that there appears to be absolutely no record of holding two men of color for several hours in a jail cell, impounding their car and releasing them overnight into a town unknown to them, telling them to return in the morning for their car, all over an air freshener hanging from their rear view mirror. This request is made in light of the outstanding job the department is doing in the area of community policing and the hope that this excellence can occur throughout the department. That does not seem to be the case. We are asking for accountability and transparency about a serious issue.
Windham County NAACP Member
Brookline, Sept. 5
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