Posts Tagged ‘Vermont’

Voters defeat police oversight board in Burlington, Vermont

March 14, 2023

Voters in Burlington, Vermont recently defeated a proposed community police oversight board, 63% to 37%, as reported here. The board would have had the authority to discipline and remove officers, including the chief. The city’s mayor had previously vetoed the proposal when it was advanced by the city council, calling it a “risky experiment.” Supporters then gathered enough signatures to get the proposed charter revision on the ballot, only to see it fail by a wide margin.

De-funding and re-funding

December 23, 2021

Burlington, VT was one jurisdiction that significantly de-funded its police department in the aftermath of George Floyd’s murder. A 30% reduction by gradual attrition was passed by the city council, but as reported here, many disillusioned officers left soon thereafter, dropping effective strength from 95 sworn to 64 more quickly than expected. Because alternative response services were not immediately established, the result has been an increase in police overtime, hiring of private security to fill gaps, and a general decline in public safety. The city council recently approved some additional police hiring, and has acknowledged that the initial decision was taken hastily, without careful assessment or planning.

Traffic deaths continuing to rise

December 13, 2021

Traffic fatalities increased by 18% in the first half of 2021, surprising safety officials, as reported here. The year before, 2020, had seen a 7% increase despite much less driving during the height of the pandemic. Experts had expected that to be a one-time anomaly, since the long-term trend had seen a 1/3 decrease in annual deaths between 1970 and 2019. Factors seem to include higher speeds, aggressive driving, failure to wear seat belts, and drug and alcohol impairment. One interpretation is that it’s “a symptom and a sign of the overall lack of consideration we’re showing for other citizens, whether it be wearing masks, or not getting vaccinated, or how we drive. It’s very aggressive. It’s very selfish.”

Only 7% women in state police

October 25, 2021

About 13% of U.S. police are women, but among state police, it’s only 7%, as reported here. That figure was at 6% in 2000, indicating only a tiny increase in 20+ years. Some factors that make a police career less attractive to women in all kinds of agencies include a male-dominated culture, lack of family leave, and lack of child care assistance. For state police, the likelihood of assignment to remote areas far from family and friends adds another disincentive. Many state police agencies see the need to secure a more representative workforce and have implemented focused recruiting, though without much effect. The Vermont State Police, at 13% women, has had one of the most successful efforts, but as a captain notes, “The makeup of our department is probably 85% straight, White men. That’s not the makeup of the population of Vermont.”

5 facts about crime in the U.S.

October 21, 2019

A useful synopsis of crime in the U.S. as of 2018 is available here from the Pew Research Center. Violent and property crime are down dramatically over the last 25 years, although these gains are not always recognized by the public. Crime rates vary substantially around the country — Alaska and New Mexico have violent crime rates 4 times higher than Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont.

When Tasers fail

May 13, 2019

This article and accompanying public radio podcast review the evolution of the Taser over the last 20 years. Data from several large departments indicate device success rates in the 55%-80% range, below the manufacturer’s claims. Effectiveness also seemed to decline after 2009 when the electrical charge was reduced. The latest model, the Taser 7, has a revised launch angle for better results at close range, since about 75% of deployments occur within 7 feet of the subject.

Death certificates often inaccurate

October 20, 2018

According to this article, cause of death and other information on death certificates is often incorrect — 20% to 50% contain errors based on studies conducted in several jurisdictions. Reasons seem to include lack of training, assigning the task to the lowest staffer on the totem pole, and poorly-designed forms. One result of the errors has been that survivors aren’t eligible for insurance payouts that they actually deserve. Also, violence and disease studies that rely on death certificate data are probably less valid than one might assume.

Taser deaths

August 22, 2017

This article begins a series from Reuters on deaths associated with conducted-energy devices (Tasers). The company cites a total of 24 deaths resulting from Taser use since 1983, all due to falls or electrical fires. Examining autopsy findings, though, the news agency identified 153 cases (out of 1,000+ fatalities) citing the stun gun as a cause or contributing factor. The first installment highlights several deaths involving persons who were in mental health or other medical distress.

“It’s a false dichotomy”

May 1, 2017

This article provides a nice profile of Brandon del Pozo, the police chief in Burlington, Vermont. He disputes the notion “that you either have to choose the narrative of excessive urban crime or choose the narrative of brutal police, and that you’re either on the black lives matter side or the blue lives matter side … It’s a false dichotomy.”

Open data on police complaints

October 26, 2016

This article from the Sunlight Foundation provides an update on several local initiatives to make complaints data more accessible and transparent, with specific examples and links. Efforts in Indianapolis, New York, and Seattle are particularly noteworthy, as well as the White House Police Data Initiative.