Former Springfield cop faces sexual misconduct and neglect of duty allegations

By ETHAN WEINSTEIN

VtDigger

Published: 03-29-2023 5:32 PM

A former Springfield, Vt., police officer facing extensive allegations of sexual misconduct and neglect of duty is scheduled for a hearing before the Vermont Criminal Justice Council next month.

Shaun Smith served as a corporal in the Springfield Police Department before he resigned in November 2020. He later worked for several months as a police officer in Woodstock.

A six-page hearing notice signed by Heather Simons, executive director of the criminal justice council, details allegations against Smith stemming from on-duty activities in 2020.

In August 2020, Springfield police officers discovered sexually explicit Facebook messages on an office computer that Smith had sent to a woman while apparently on duty, the document alleges. The officers interpreted Smith’s messages as “pressuring the woman for sex,” and described the messages as “horrifying,” according to the hearing notice.

“The woman with whom Cpl. Smith was messaging on Facebook messenger had been a victim in a past sexual assault investigation handled by the Springfield Police Department, of which Cpl. Smith was aware,” the notice stated.

Smith’s colleagues later observed him texting with the woman while on duty, telling her he would meet up with her later during his shift at a middle school parking lot once he assisted with a DUI arrest, according to the filing.

Misconduct allegations have plagued Smith in the past. In July 2021, Windsor County State’s Attorney Ward Goodenough flagged Smith’s “untruthfulness” in a Brady letter. Prosecutors use Brady letters to identify law enforcement officers whose actions raise concerns about their credibility.

In addition to sexual misconduct, the hearing notice alleges that Smith would regularly disappear for long periods of time while on duty, sometimes lying about his whereabouts.

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Smith would often not report his location to fellow officers, the document states, leading some colleagues to create a “Where’s Waldo” game in which they would try to find the corporal. Officers reported seeing Smith parked in various parking lots for extended periods of time, sometimes meeting different women while on duty.

According to the document, “department members believed Cpl. Smith was engaged in a pattern of inappropriate behavior and was pursuing extramarital affairs with multiple women while on duty.”

The allegations facing Smith are not the first brought to the attention of the criminal justice council. An earlier inquiry found that he had engaged in misconduct, including “failing to exercise the authority of his position, failing to have proper knowledge of Laws and Regulations, inappropriate conduct towards the public, and neglect of duty,” according to the hearing notice. “Because it was the first such offense, no sanction could be imposed by law.”

Now, the criminal justice council expects to consider sanctions, the most severe being permanent revocation of Smith’s law enforcement certification. He’s scheduled for a hearing on April 18.

Reached on Tuesday, Smith declined to comment on his upcoming hearing. He said he’s represented by an attorney from the New England Police Benevolent Association, a law enforcement union.

Springfield’s current police chief, Jeffrey Burnham, did not join the department until almost two years after Smith resigned. In an email on Tuesday, Burnham said he “could not be happier with the level of effort and professionalism of the department,” calling his current staff “exemplary.”

“While few enjoy it when officers are investigated or adjudicated, it does serve as the measure of accountability for police officers,” he wrote.

In recent months, the criminal justice council has revoked certifications for former Springfield, Winooski, Vt., and Manchester, Vt., police officers.

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