BENNINGTON, Vt. – Two former Bennington residents are filing a Human Rights Commission complaint against the town select board amid allegations of racial discrimination and retaliation.
Cassandra Keating and Joel Fowler had sent written complaints to the Bennington Police Department alleging racially-motivated policing. According to the couple, the select board publicly identified them as complainants and released other personal information.
The HRC complaint argues that in doing so, the Bennington Select Board violated Vermont law.
The ACLU of Vermont and the Rutland Area Branch NAACP weighed in on Keating and Fowler’s complaint during a press conference on Wednesday. The ACLU of Vermont is representing the couple in this case.
“The Select Board’s actions seem intended to discourage our clients and other people of color from filing complaints against the Bennington Police Department, despite its long and well-documented history of discrimination,” said Jay Diaz, Senior Staff Attorney with the ACLU of Vermont. “This case is yet another example of the systemic racism that Black Vermonters continue to face in Bennington and other Vermont towns. It has to stop.”
“The people of Bennington need and deserve a fair process for the review of police complaints, one that protects their privacy and does not discourage others from coming forward,” said Rutland Area Branch NAACP President Mia Schultz. “This case is also another example of Black people being driven out of their communities due to racist harassment, retaliation, and a lack of support.”
The ACLU and Rutland Area Branch NAACP are calling on Bennington officials to change the town’s policy to ensure “future complainants’ identities and personal information are kept confidential from the police officers in question, anyone not involved in the internal affairs investigation, and the general public.”