Crime and Safety

VSP Advisory Commission Releases Synopsis of Misconduct Investigations

WATERBURY, Vermont (Friday, Jan. 28, 2022) — The Vermont Department of Public Safety and the State Police Advisory Commission today are releasing the third semiannual detailed summary of internal investigations involving members of the Vermont State Police.

The release of these detailed synopses began in January 2021 and is designed to provide greater transparency, public awareness, and oversight to the activities of the Vermont State Police, while balancing rules regarding internal investigations and the need to have internal investigations completed before public dissemination.

A report that is available at this link contains synopses of the 11 matters that came before SPAC from Jan. 1, 2021, to June 30, 2021.

The report shows that of the 11 cases, seven came to the attention of supervisors due to internal reporting by members of the state police, and four matters arose as the result of concerns raised by community members.

Three of the complaints were determined to have represented no violation of VSP policy by the member in question. Four cases resulted in findings that the members did violate policy. In three additional cases, the trooper involved either resigned or retired before the internal investigation review process concluded. The internal investigation into the final case is on hold pending the outcome of related criminal proceedings. The eight complaints in these categories involved instances related to posts on social media, untruthfulness, adherence to policies during a motor vehicle pursuit, conduct related to a traffic stop, excessive force during an arrest, adherence to safety protocols during a training flight of an unmanned aircraft system, discourteousness to a member of the public, and the use of computer systems. Sanctions for the four substantiated violations included counseling of troopers, letters of reprimand, and additional training.

Synopses in the report do not include identifying information about the troopers involved, which is confidential as a matter of law.

The State Police Advisory Commission was created by statute in 1979 and is comprised of seven members appointed by the governor with the advice and consent of the Vermont Senate.  Among the duties of SPAC is to provide civilian oversight of the Vermont State Police and to advise and counsel the Commissioner of Public Safety in his/her overall responsibilities for the management, supervision and control of the Vermont State Police. In addition, SPAC is statutorily empowered to provide advice and counsel to the Commissioner of Public Safety to ensure appropriate action is taken with respect to allegations of misconduct by Vermont State Police officers. To assist the Commissioner of Public Safety and SPAC, Vermont law also requires DPS to maintain an Office of Internal Investigations (IA), whose sole responsibility is to investigate allegations of misconduct by members of the Vermont State Police. The IA Office, staffed with a Vermont State Police commander, reports directly to the Commissioner.

The current SPAC members are highly respected professionals and represent a cross-section of Vermont. They are: Chairwoman Nancy Sheahan; Vice Chairman Glenn Boyde; and members Allison Crowley, John Filipek, Shirley Jefferson, and Mary Alice McKenzie.

The Department of Public Safety IA Office receives allegations of misconduct or improper conduct by a Vermont state trooper in two ways. First, the public may lodge a complaint regarding a state trooper’s conduct by telephone, through the Vermont State Police website, via email, or in person. These allegations are referred to as “citizen complaints.” In addition, each VSP member is obligated to promptly report any evidence or allegation of misconduct or improper conduct involving a state trooper. These reports are referred to as “employee complaints.” 

Not all complaints rise to the level of requiring a formal internal affairs investigation. These are typically handled by the station or unit commander. For instance, a complaint about a trooper speeding on the highway normally would be handled by the station or unit commander. More serious allegations, as determined by the Commissioner, are opened as formal internal affairs investigations. In the case of an allegation of misconduct that consists of criminal conduct, the internal investigation typically is stayed pending the conclusion of a criminal investigation and/or prosecution by appropriate prosecutorial authorities. Once an internal affairs investigation is complete, the Commissioner determines what disciplinary action, if any, is appropriate and should be imposed. The entire case is then reviewed by the State Police Advisory Commission to ensure appropriate action has been taken.

Vermont law requires that all internal investigations “shall be confidential” except in limited circumstances. Accordingly, specific details beyond the synopses regarding these 2021 investigations cannot be made public.

SPAC meetings generally are held bi-monthly and are open to the public (except when SPAC is in executive session). Meeting dates can be found on the DPS website by clicking the SPAC link under “Committees and Boards.”

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