Donovan calls for 3rd-party investigation into Bennington Police

By  | 

BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) The Vermont NAACP and the ACLU of Vermont are calling for a broader inquiry into the Kiah Morris investigation and how Bennington authorities handled it.

"You're seeing the escalation, and what happens when you don't pay attention, when you don't do anything when we are telling you there is a problem," said Tabitha Pohl Moore with the NAACP.

She says the investigation looking at racial harassment toward former Vermont Rep. Kiah Morris is just the beginning of the systemic racism in the state.

"It's all over Vermont," Pohl Moore said.

Max Misch is accused of that harassment. The self-described troll was arraigned last Thursday after police found evidence he purchased gun magazines in violation of the state's new guns law.

Now, court records reveal Bennington Police knew last October about racially charged comments and more illegal high-capacity magazine purchases by Misch.

But Vermont Attorney General T.J. Donovan says his office didn't learn about it until January. Now, he wants a third party to investigate the department.

"It's my opinion that an outside law enforcement expert is needed to review Bennington Police Department's policies and procedures to ensure that best practicing in policing is followed," Donovan said.

"In a high-profile investigation of harassment and threats, one of the targets of that investigation is coming into possession of high-capacity weapons-- that is very relevant and important information that was not passed along," said James Lyall with the ACLU of Vermont.

The group is calling for a closer look into what they call systemic bias and discrimination in Bennington's criminal justice system.

"If it had been a white lawmaker who is facing that kind of harassment, these kinds of threats, there is no way that Bennington law enforcement would've responded in the same way," Lyall said.

They say this situation is a symptom of a bigger problem at the Bennington Police Department.

Bennington Police Chief Paul Doucette did not return calls for comment.