Barre City Council votes to add Civilian Oversight and Advisory Board

Published: Jul. 1, 2020 at 12:08 AM EDT
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The Barre City Council has voted in favor of creating a new committee on police reform.

At Tuesday’s City Council meeting, Councilor Teddy Waszazak introduced a proposal to design the Civilian Oversight and Advisory Board.

“The board, as written, would review and investigate violations of the policy of members of the Barre City Police Department,” he said. “Reviewing policies and making recommendations to the council on Barre City police Department policies.”

The Civilian Oversight and Advisory Board will be the first committee of its kind in Barre. It will allow for a full public review of all internal police department policies. The board will also advise the department on hires and practices and will hear anonymous and public complaints made against police. Committee members will have the authority to review and investigate any uses of deadly force by officers.

Much of Tuesday's debate was regarding qualifications to sit on the board.

“You have to have a significant tie to Barre City such as owning a property, owning a business,” Councilor Michael Boutin suggested.

Other people advocated for people of color to be represented on the committee.

"I think prioritizing having Black individuals on a board such as this would be really paramount,” said one woman.

The council agreed all five board members must be either Barre City residents, employees or property owners. Two liaisons-- one being a city councilor and the other the chief of police-- will also sit on the board.

Waszazak also introduced the “Good Policing Proposal,” which seeks to ban chokeholds and the use of tear gas. It also aims to direct more funding to community and mental health resources and strengthen protections for immigrant communities.

Waszazak says he wrote the proposals in response to “the overwhelming, and long overdue, call to reform the policing policies and practices across the United States.” He says “When people of color are four times more likely to be pulled over than a white person in Vermont, and when Black men make up 11% of our prison population despite being less than 2% of our statewide population, we know something is very wrong.”

The council voted unanimously to withdraw the Good Policing Policy at the suggestion of the mayor. The proposal will be passed on to the oversight committee to take up for discussion once it’s formed.

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