Franklin County Sheriff certification deliberations expected by Dec. 6

Published: Nov. 15, 2023 at 5:59 PM EST
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PITTSFORD, Vt. (WCAX) - The Vermont Criminal Justice Council could decide by next month on the possible decertification of Franklin County Sheriff John Grismore. It comes at the same time as the embattled sheriff faces an assault charge in court, and an impeachment inquiry at the Statehouse.

The Criminal Justice Council began hearing testimony Tuesday stemming from a 2022 criminal charge that then-captain Grismore faces for allegedly kicking a handcuffed man in the groin at the Sheriff’s office. They are significant because unlike the Legislature’s closed-door inquiry, it’s the first public testimony on the incident.

“We have a job to do that deals just with the certification status. We have an obligation to do it in a fair and impartial way and that’s what we’re trying to do,” said former Vermont Attorney General Bill Sorrell, the council’s chair.

Tuesday’s hearing included testimony from sheriff’s deputies involved in the 2022 incident, a use of force expert, and from Sheriff Grismore, who was asked questions by his attorney, Robert Kaplan.

Robert Kaplan: Why did you intervene in this effort by the deputies?

Sheriff John Grismore: Because between the two of them, they weren’t effectively controlling him and they weren’t doing it in a safe manner.

Kaplan argues that there is more to the incident than just what happened in the holding cell. He worries about the impact this process will have on other law enforcement officers. “I can say, as a citizen, we all should worry about what message we’re sending to police officers if we want to have someone to answer the phone when we’re in the terrible position of having to call 911,” Kaplan told us. “Our position is that it should not result in a decertification and Sheriff Grismore has maintained from the very beginning that his actions were absolutely correct.”

If the council finds that Grismore violated the state’s use of force policy, they will decide on a punishment that could range from a written reprimand, suspension, or full decertification of his law enforcement license, meaning he would be unable to perform police duties such as responding to calls. It;’s the first contested hearing that has come before the council.

“If we made a decision that impacted the sheriff’s certification status, that would not mean that he’s no longer sheriff,” Sorrell said.

He says the council plans to reconvene to finish hearing testimony and begin deliberations on December 6th.

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