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Voices / Letters from readers

Kudos for safety report, but it needs a better summary

At over 200 pages, the “Final Report on the Community Safety Review Process” for Brattleboro is now out and it is massive to get one’s arms and thoughts around. I have not read it all by any means, though I have read some sections in detail.

I did (via Zoom) sit in on the Jan. 5 Selectboard meeting where co-coordinators Shea Witzberger and Emily Megas-Russell presented the report for two hours, which was followed by another hour of initial discussion.

The Selectboard will be taking this report up again one or more times during the rest of January. Some of what goes into the warning for March’s town meeting will likely depend on those discussions.

I found listening to Shea and Emily explain the report to be more helpful than reading the report itself. Despite the wealth of information across many subject areas (police, Dept. of Children and Families, mental health supports, racism, bias against queer and trans people, community supports), the two are smart enough to keep repeating key themes until we get it.

I found reading the report much more daunting, and also more confusing. The project needed to be done by December 31, and the effort could have used one more good edit. More importantly, some of the language used — particularly in the mental health field — I found unfamiliar, and so I didn’t get it so well.

Most problematically, I don’t think the executive summary did a good job of summarizing. It does not even try to summarize the recommendations, which span 16 pages in the body of the report. I don’t think the average Town Meeting member will be reading the whole report. I do think the average Town Meeting member needs to (and wants to) understand the key recommendations.

My number one recommendation at this point is that Shea and Emily produce an improved summary. One that’s five pages?

Such a new section would, I think, be helpful to the Selectboard in their deliberations, though I’m guessing all five of them will read the entire report and will have more opportunity to query.

Maybe more importantly, such a new summary would be helpful for Town Meeting members. It’s very probable some important votes will depend on clear understanding of the safety report.

Regardless, I will keep tuning in. This is an awfully important report that the committee and Shea and Emily put together, with an awful lot of tough stuff in it. Kudos, because they pulled off an enormous job.

Michael Bosworth

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Originally published in The Commons issue #595 (Wednesday, January 13, 2021). This story appeared on page B5.

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