Letter: There is something very wrong with police training

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Editor of the Reformer,

I attended Sunday's (May 31) demonstration in memory of George Floyd. I carried a sign reading "Ask me about Michael Santiago." Due to the noise and social distancing, I had little opportunity to explain.

On April 4, 2014, at 5:30 a.m., an officer of Brattleboro Police Department shot and killed Michael Santiago in a motel room at America's Best Inn during the execution of a search warrant for drugs. After breaking down the door and shouting "show your hands," Santiago was shot twice for not complying to the satisfaction of the officer. It turned out Santiago was unarmed. The state investigation determined the homicide was justified.

I have thought about this killing frequently over the past six years, as Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Tamir Rice, Walter Scott, George Floyd and countless other unarmed individuals have been killed by police. I know the Brattleboro officer who killed Santiago. I worked with him on revising the BPD use of force policy after the BPD tased two non-violent demonstrators on Putney Road in 2006. He is a decent man.

My conclusion is that there is something very wrong with police training. I read Chief Fitzgerald's letter to the community after the George Floyd murder. My question to our chief is: has anything changed in Brattleboro Police Department training since the Santiago homicide that would allow for a better outcome?

Leo Schiff

Brattleboro, June 1

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