By Chief Brian Peete
George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, Trayvon Martin, Eric Garner, and many others have lost their lives at the hands of castigators or police officers who have served within my profession. The profession that I love deeply and to which I have sworn an oath. The demands for change for how both law enforcement and society at large confront subconscious, implicit, and racial bias has not come despite the many times these same scenes have played out over and over across the country. Scenes that involve people of color. Scenes that involve members of the LGBTQ community. Scenes that involve all who are socially and economically disadvantaged. You may be confused, mad, and hurt. I am hurt. Still, what pulls me up is my faith in solidarity and my belief that goodness lies in each of us.
This goodness is playing out across the world and right here in Montpelier. You are standing up for change, for people whose voices have been drowned out or ignored; rightfully demanding accountability and transparency: that police cultures collectively evolve into a mindset that is determined to guard the public and provide safety and protection to every person. Basic human rights. Dignity. Respect.
Police chiefs have a duty to protect and preserve fundamental rights. We are accountable for the protection of every citizen, and we are especially accountable to those we lead: our officers, dispatchers, and civilians. To give them the support, exposure, resources, and training they need to ensure their mental health and well-being so that they can do their jobs safely and without fear of reprisal, especially in speaking up when they see something wrong. We must be servants with the courage to no longer be complicit in a culture that has historically and systemically dehumanized and oppressed those who stand outside of “traditional” norms: people of color, LGBTQ, those suffering from mental illness, and the social and economically disadvantaged. We must work quickly to be part of a solution, but we must move at a responsible pace so to ensure we get this right, because real lives, including those of our officers, hang in the balance. There are many good officers who are just and responsibly do their jobs everyday: women and men who have made positive differences in many of the lives they’ve come across.
Montpelier is a city that stands at the forefront of progression. People are engaged. Elected leaders listen. The administration listens. The Police Department listens. For any flaws or mistakes our government may have, I know the intention and spirit here is defaulted to service above all other interests. Montpelier and Vermont are “woke.” In our push for change we must be mindful to not allow the sins of the past to destroy a future of hope. There is diligence for each of us in building our local and national governments into establishments worthy of the public trust.
I am proud to be here, and I believe we have everything we need to continue leading the way and to set the example of what true inclusiveness, diversity, transparency, and responsiveness is. There are tough, robust conversations coming about how to face and deal with the issues within our country and its institutions, and I look forward to not only having them but acting on them. We will need all your candor and help, because only together we can do this.
Brian Peete is Montpelier’s new chief of police.