Vermont’s first black female police chief says she has big plans for Brattleboro, including diversifying the department and recruiting more officers.
Norma Hardy, who was sworn in Wednesday, has 26 years of experience in law enforcement. She takes over a department that, according to a report by the Community Safety Review Committee, has exhibited racial bias and profiling.
Right now, Hardy is one of just two women on the force, and the only person of color. Hardy said she has faced obstacles because of her gender and race throughput her career.
“When I joined the port authority police there were not a lot of women,” Hardy said. “So making men, other officers feel confident in my abilities to be a police officer.”
Hardy said being a Black woman added to that pressure.
“Sometimes the male officers would make certain statements that I didn’t feel as if they were ferocious about it,” Hardy said. “I just felt that they didn’t have the knowledge that it might not be the right thing to say.”
Hardy said she loves knowing that young girls could look up to her in this role.
“I hope that I can continue to be someone that they would look up to and aspire to reach heights even greater than the ones that I have reached,” Hardy said. “I always tell young people, partially young girls, you can go further than I have.”
Captain Mark Carignan said the department is committed to building a more diverse force for the city “to reflect the representation that they have by having officers that look like them.”
But the biggest challenge is hiring and recruiting.
“We are very short staffed right now,” Carignan said. “We have an authorized strength of 27 officers and we currently have 17. That includes the recent hire of Chief Hardy.”
One of Hardy’s hobbies is writing poetry, which she began when she was 8 years old.
“The one that most people talk to me about is the one I wrote after the terrorist attacks on 9/11,” Hardy said. “And it’s called The Men. That is the one that people speak about the most because it honors my colleagues that were lost during the attacks.”
Hardy said she wants Brattleboro residents to feel safe, with a police department they can be proud of.
“I hope to bring the Brattleboro Police Department to be known as an exceptional department, as a trusted and trustworthy department,” Hardy said.