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Montpelier Police Seek Public Input on Use of Force Policy

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Montpelier Police Chief Brian Peete.

To comply with a new state law that defines “use of force” by police officers, the Montpelier Police Department has drafted a detailed policy document and is seeking public review and comment. Town hall discussions will be held via Zoom on Nov. 10 and 11 (see below).

“Use of Force” is defined in the presentation as “. . . any action beyond compliant handcuffing and must be justified as reasonable based on the totality of the circumstances.”

On Nov. 3, at the first of several planned public presentations, Chief Brian Peete and Deputy Chief Eric Nordstrom emphasized that the policy involves the department working even more closely with social and mental health services organizations in situations that do not involve criminality. For instance, Peete explained that in situations of an intoxicated person, “MPD will not prioritize calls relating to intoxicated individuals if there is no criminal nexus. If there is no criminal nexus, any response or request for assistance will center on referral to external resources and/or medical assistance. MPD can assist stakeholder agencies but shall not take lead.”

The determination of appropriate response will begin with a careful assessment of situations by the MPD dispatcher, who likely will be asking more specific questions than may have been the case in the past, Peete said. Among the cautions is for dispatchers to be alert to the possibility of a caller exaggerating a situation to “weaponize the police” response, he added.

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In collaboration with community partners such as Washington County Mental Health, Another Way, and the Good Samaritan Haven, among others, the policy has been reviewed by both community partners and stakeholders, Peete emphasized. The presentation outlines the “biggest considerations” of the new policy:

  1. The MPD wants to maintain and strengthen working relations with our community partners and stakeholders. We do not want this policy to cause animosity or fracture long-standing relationships.
  2. The MPD cannot deviate from the statewide policy, but there is some flexibility in how we can respond.
  3. We want to minimize risk to both our officers and stakeholders, while working together to provide safety to our community, especially those who need the most help.
  4. We have discussed our draft policy with stakeholders and how we anticipate our response to calls for service they may be involved in. We hope to find solutions with our partners as to how to fill any vacuum or gaps we may be leaving.
  5. We recognize there is frustration and know there will be growing pains and confusion until we find the best possible response for given situations. We are hoping for everyone’s patience and continuous feedback.
  6. We plan to hold several town hall meetings with the community to discuss the Use of Force policy.

Upcoming Town Hall Discussions

The Montpelier Police Department is inviting the public to scheduled Zoom meetings.

Information about the meetings is posted on the Montpelier Police Department Facebook page and on Front Porch Forum. Also, a link to a specific meeting can be requested by calling the MPD: 802-223-3445.

Wednesday, Nov. 10, Noon or 6 p.m.

Thursday, Nov. 11, 6 p.m.

The document outlining the MPD’s response procedures can be downloaded from the department’s web page: https://www.montpelier-vt.org/220/Police-Department

Links to the upcoming Zoom meetings can be found in the city’s weekly report: https://www.montpelier-vt.org/ArchiveCenter/ViewFile/Item/5318