Letter: Holding the Police Accountable

To the Editor:

In light of the Vermont attorney general’s finding of justifiable force by the state police in the Macadam Mason Taser case, I think Vermonters are ready for the creation of a civilian review board. Whether or not one agrees with the attorney general’s decision, it’s no secret that state residents are increasingly uneasy with the conduct of their police agencies and the oftentimes controversial decisions coming out of the attorney general’s office. I believe creating a review board would be an important step in the right direction, chiefly due to Vermont citizens’ eroding confidence in law enforcement.

Truly independent of law enforcement, the panel would be comprised of a cross-section of civic-minded people; the board would also include a professional non-police investigator and one or two skilled lawyers who are familiar with the intricacies of handling cases of police brutality, harassment and misconduct. They would have real prosecutorial powers as well.

Civilian review boards have worked well in other areas of the country. Unfortunately, our lawmakers and the attorney general’s office have been reluctant, to say the least, to approve the creation of such a board — even in the face of so many high-profile police incidents over the last decade. I can’t understand why having more balance and accountability as well as having more oversight of law enforcement wouldn’t be strongly embraced by our elected officials.

Steve Maynes

Weathersfield, Vt.