Big issues like systemic racism and police reform require leaders to listen and look beyond the polarized positions of our current discourse to choose solutions that work for everyone. As a member of the Saint Albans City Council, I helped to craft a letter last spring committing us to take a hard look at how our policies contribute to the systemic racism that exists in our society. Since then we’ve spent a lot of the Council’s time talking about police. We have moved forward with changes in leadership, hiring outside professionals to help us craft new policy and looked to engage the community further. I’ve supported the idea of more community engagement in police policy with a Police Advisory Board. Applications are open now for candidates who wish to serve on the new board.

 

This board has been criticized by some activists as being “toothless”, while others have wrongly suggested that this policy is part of some national movement to “defund” the police. I’ve supported the creation of the Street Crimes Unit and increased investment in benefits and salary for the SAPD at the same time as I demanded we hold officers who break the public trust accountable. As I’ve listened to the full spectrum of voices in our community, I have come to support reform and engagement of more voices when it comes to hiring and use of force policies. However, I do not support politicizing investigations into these incidents or circumventing our form of municipal government by allowing civilians who don’t answer to the elected Council to decide on disciplinary action.

 

In the Legislature we must continue the work we began with S.219 this year. This law took steps to increase transparency on the collection of data during police stops, prohibited chokeholds, and created statewide use of force policies. Now we have to go deeper into the difficult debates over what level of policing makes sense in our communities, what level of education and training are needed for officers, and whether we can apply restorative justice principles throughout our criminal justice system. If re-elected, I’ll continue to support police reform in the Legislature. The State of Vermont should be a leader in a new model for public safety, de-emphasizing armed "warrior" policing and placing a greater investment on social services and mental health professionals wherever we can.

 

If you’re interested in these issues, I’d encourage you to consider serving on the Police Advisory Board. You can find an application on the City of Saint Albans website: stalbansvt.com

 

Rep. Mike McCarthy

St. Albans

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