All people should feel safe living in and traveling through Putney

PUTNEY — We Putney residents will be voting “yes” on the upcoming town meeting resolution urging the Windham County Sheriff's Office to close specific loopholes pertaining to communicating and cooperating with federal immigration agents.

We believe we need a policy that respects the human rights of all people to feel safe living in and traveling through our town.

Reforms, such as specifying that immigration status cannot be grounds for arrest, citation or deportation, and protecting the confidentiality of victims and witnesses of crimes, are crucial for all to feel safe in our community.

In his recent public letter, Sheriff Anderson said that he would be “horrified if something like that was occurring in the department.” If this is the case, we do not understand why he would resist including these reforms into Windham County's policing policy, known as the Fair and Impartial Policing Policy (FIPP).

The purpose of the policy is to set clear guidelines for how the sheriff's deputies are expected to act, rather than waiting for problems to occur. Policy and culture need to be aligned and reinforce one another; the Sheriff's discounting the policy side of this equation compromises the professionalism he states he values.

Sheriff Anderson asserts that the proposed reforms “may violate state [and] federal law.” But there is specific language in the list of improvements that states that “nothing in the policy is intended to violate state or federal law.” Furthermore, seven Vermont towns, including Brattleboro, and one county sheriff's office, have adopted these reforms.

In approving these reforms, Vermont's attorney general, in a letter to the Brattleboro Police Department after they adopted the improvements, stated that “the Brattleboro policy includes each component of the [State] Council's model policy” and “complies with the Vermont FIPP.”

Why then, does Sheriff Anderson continue to state that the proposed language “may violate state [and] federal law?”

It would be great if the Vermont Criminal Justice Council (VCJC) would incorporate these changes. A couple of years ago, the VCJC removed from the original version of the FIPP the language we are currently advocating. We, like Sheriff Anderson, would like a uniform statewide FIPP, and we'd like the VCJC to incorporate these reforms in that policy, but that council has been dragging its feet.

We encourage everyone in our community to vote “yes” on the resolution, Article 16 on the Town Meeting ballot.

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