Board accepts Community Safety Review findings

BRATTLEBORO — The Selectboard voted unanimously on Jan. 19 to formally accept the Community Safety Review Process report and recommendations.

Board members directed town staff to read through the report and return with additional information.

“We will be bringing back to the Selectboard additional information to help [members] decide how to move forward with the work,” Town Manager Peter Elwell said.

The report outlines the often negative experiences that marginalized townspeople report having had with law enforcement, the mental health system, and state agencies such as Department for Children and Families.

Facilitators Shea Witzberger and Emily Megas-Russell, in collaboration with a nine-member committee, submitted the report to the board on Dec. 31.

The review explored community members' sense of safety and how the town deployed safety-related resources, ultimately recommending ways the town could improve.

Examples of recommendations include freezing increases in the police training budget and focusing on its “effective and efficient utilization.”

Other items included disarming police officers when they are participating in non-emergency or community events, such as speaking engagements or meetings, and investing in restorative justice practices from the community level to town government.

“I want to assure the community that the Selectboard asking for some assistance from staff does not represent putting the report and its recommendations on a shelf. It is the opposite,” Elwell said. “The whole reason the Selectboard asked staff to do this is because of the Selectboard's intent to move forward with the work.”

Elwell said staff plan to return to the board by either the Feb. 16 or March 2 Selectboard meeting.

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