A coalition of Green Mountain State faith communities has spent months trying to discover ways to start a conversation with local police about racial equity. The new nine-page guide from Vermont Interfaith Action begins by making a case for civilian oversight of law enforcement and by offering a brief overview of Vermont policing.
The bulk of the document consists of nearly 70 different suggested questions spanning more than a dozen different subject areas. They’re intended as a first step to open a dialogue between local police chiefs and the communities they serve.
“The questions also provide a chance for police officers to talk about policing,” Nina Regan said as she helped present the guide Wednesday night. “They can talk about the trauma of performing the job and how they handle it.”
To compile the document, Vermont Interfaith Action’s racial justice and public safety organizing ministry spoke with a wide range of people. It interviewed lawmakers, leaders of racial justice organizations and local police chiefs, among others. The chiefs included those in Burlington, South Burlington, Winooski and Williston.
“One of our chief conclusions is that there is no consensus on the nature or extent of racism in policing in Vermont,” Regan noted.
The interviews led to suggested conversation starters like: “What tools have officers been given to become more aware of their own personal implicit biases and mitigate against them when dealing with the public?”
“Some of our interviewees argue that officers do not generally understand the breadth and depth of racial oppression in the U.S., while one police chief made this topic central to his officers’ training,” Regan said.
The recommended queries also include: “Does the department collect and record data on all key department activities (e.g. traffic stops, searches, arrests, uses of force)?” and “How have you seen officers improve in their impact on their communities?”
“The Vermont State Police and the South Burlington Police Department were cited as being ahead of the curve on fair and impartial policing,” Regan added. “Both have taken data analysis seriously and made progress in creating a culture that values fair and impartial policing.”
Vermont Interfaith Action says it’s ready to help any community group in Vermont that wants to use the guide. You can reach out to the organization by clicking here.