Vt. AG clears Hartford cops in pepper spray incident
Montpelier, Vermont - November 23, 2010
Vermont Attorney General Bill Sorrell has cleared two Hartford police officers who pepper sprayed an African-American homeowner.
The state investigated Officers Frederick Peyton and Kristinnah Adams. In May, they responded to a break-in at an apartment owned by Wayne Burwell. The apartment was ransacked and police say they found a man in the bathroom who was being combative. The officers used pepper spray and hit him with a baton. Once outside, they learned the man was actually the resident, Wayne Burwell.
Sorrell's office says Burwell suffers from a serious medical condition and does not remember the incident.
"Obviously I'm pleased with the results of the investigation," Hartford Police Chief Glenn Cutting said. "The officers did what they had to do in that moment and it is always good to be cleared by an outside agency, such as the attorney general's office."
The Vermont ACLU disagrees. It says the attorney general should not handle these investigations because they serve as the state's top cop and that's a conflict of interest.
The ACLU has also filed papers to see the AG's full investigation of the Burwell incident. They say last week's bias-free policing announcement by the AG can only become a reality if it gains public trust.
"If we are really committed to racial-free policing, bias-free policing, then we ought to be able and we ought to be willing to produce the information that's necessary to make the judgments of whether we are in fact, doing something we'd rather not have our police doing, which is profiling by race," said Allen Gilbert of the Vermont ACLU.
The ACLU has also recommended licensing the state police agencies like teachers or doctors in order to create an oversight committee outside of the Attorney General's Office.