Franklin Co. Sheriff’s Office says it unknowingly hired former officer who failed to report excessive force incident

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A law enforcement officer working in St. Albans is on administrative leave from his job in the wake of an incident from back in March that only surfaced after the ACLU requested public records of it.

This new development in the story has taken the Franklin County Sheriff completely by surprise.

According to St. Albans Police Chief Gary Taylor, Michael Ferguson was one of the officers looking on when Sgt. Jason Lawton appeared to hit Amy Connelly of Highgate in her holding cell after she’d been arrested.

Chief Taylor claims that Officer Ferguson failed to report it and then quit his job in early June, the day after the chief called for an internal investigation.

Ferguson later applied for work with the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office, who asked the St. Albans P.D. on July 3rd why he wasn’t working for them anymore. This was two days after the department fired Sgt. Lawton.

Franklin County Sheriff Roger Langevin tells us the city police turned over Ferguson’s personnel records without ever mentioning that he may also have been involved in the March incident.

The sheriff’s office hired Ferguson last week.

“Obviously, we would have liked to have that information prior to,” Sheriff Langevin said. “We thought we had the complete information to make a hiring decision, and that would have been something we would have liked to have had before making the decision.”

The sheriff claims the discovery of this information on Wednesday blindsided him…and that he has no idea why he wasn’t notified.

“I don’t. I can’t speak for St. Albans P.D.; all I can say is that we did not get the video,” Langevin said. “We were suprised when we saw that online; that was where we learned of it.”

In a written statement, Chief Taylor claims his department turned over all information and documents about Ferguson that it was legally obligated to release. There was no mention, though, of why the incident captured on video didn’t fall into that category.

The chief also writes there were other documented issues with Ferguson’s job performance that were more serious than the failure to report. Neither the chief nor the sheriff are saying what those were.

“Yeah, we don’t want to compromise the ongoing investigation, which the Vermont State Police are currently doing,” Sheriff Langevin said.

The sheriff’s office placed Ferguson on administrative leave from his job on Thursday. Langevin says that at least in part, this move is for Ferguson’s own protection.

“You know, allegations were made, and until the investigation is completed, it’s normal standard operating procedure where we do this type of thing,” the sheriff said.

He adds that the revelation about Ferguson is especially noteworthy in light of Vermont Act 56. That law requires law enforcement agencies to report any resignations by officers under investigation for professional misconduct in an effort to maintain public trust.

“And our philosophy here is community policing, so it’s very important for us to treat the public with respect at all times,” Sheriff Langevin said.

The sheriff’s office is looking into Ferguson’s conduct while he’s on leave.

We reached out to St. Albans Police Chief Gary Taylor on Thursday for an interview regarding this story. However, we were told he wasn’t available.

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