New Brattleboro Police chief says she brings ‘different perspective’
BRATTLEBORO, Vt. (WCAX) - Brattleboro’s new police chief is breaking new ground across the state of Vermont. Adam Sullivan introduces us.
It was day one on the job for Brattleboro’s new police chief, an African American woman who is breaking the glass ceiling when it comes to law enforcement in Vermont.
“I think I bring a different perspective,” said Chief Norma Hardy. That perspective comes from 26 years with the Port Authority Police Department in New York and New Jersey. She is now tasked with leading Brattleboro’s department, a town, like many across the region, working to address social and racial inequities in the community and treatment of people of color by police.
“I’ve been on both sides of the fence, so to speak -- being in law enforcement and also being a citizen,” Hardy said.
A recent study highlighting thousands of traffic stops across Vermont, found that people of color in the Green Mountains are ticketed and arrested at significantly higher rates than white drivers.
“Her being a Black woman was not the reason she was selected to be the police chief,” said Brattleboro Town Manager Peter Elwell. Hardy is also the state’s first Black, female chief. Elwell says he celebrates that fact. “The person who came to us --who so clearly was the best qualified, who we are really excited about moving forward with as a teammate and as a leader of our police department -- is in fact someone who brings a different perspective from her own life experience.”
From a public safety perspective, Brattleboro faces many challenges. At the top of the list is the opioid crisis and the effect it has on the community, including homelessness and mental health. Hardy says it’s not just an issue for police. “And the community has to come together with programs, with treatment, and people have to feel safe asking for these services also,” she said.
We spoke with residents about how they want to see law enforcement change. Leslie Read, who has lived in Brattleboro for 20 years, said change needs to come from the entire community. “Just more tolerance,” she said, adding that Hardy is a good choice to help lead that change. “Being open to the fact that she is different and having it succeed.”
Success for the new chief is keeping the community safe. She says she does feel the pressure to make that happen, but also says she is up to the task. “Hopefully this won’t be such a big deal in the future because there will be so many of us in leadership positions all over the state,” Hardy said.
Her number one priority -- aside from getting to know the community -- is hiring more officers. Currently, the department is about 10 officers short of where it should be.
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