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UVM researchers look at police funding across Vermont

(WCAX)
Published: Jul. 2, 2020 at 6:09 PM EDT
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As funding for police departments is under scrutiny across the country, a new database compiled in collaboration with UVM researchers is comparing police budgets from more than half of Vermont cities and towns.

It's no surprise that the Burlington Police Department tops the list of approved department budgets, but the data shows on average that spending was up around 4% between FY 2019 and 2020.

According to the numbers from this past fiscal year from more rural communities like Peru, Peacham and Worcester, voters agreed on spending less than $1,000 on police services. That could be contracts with the Vermont State Police, county sheriffs or a town constable.

The data also shows 24 municipalities that budget more than $1 million for their own city or town police departments.

"Bigger urban areas tend to spend more on their police, so Newport, Rutland, St. Albans, Bennington and Burlington. But there are definitely exceptions that are really interesting. So, even in Chittenden County, where we have some of the highest police expenditures per town, Essex, South Burlington -- Burlington of course -- we also have some towns that are spending very little -- Westford, Jericho, Underhill, Charlotte. So, there are some real differences even within Chittenden County," said Richard Watts with the Center for Research on Vermont

But it's not only the bigger towns with bigger police budgets. Watts found that ski towns like Ludlow, Stowe and Dover also are spending higher amounts on police services -- from $400 to more than $600 per capita.

"I think there's this broad conversation going on about not only are we spending the right amount but are we spending it in the right places? So, perhaps the police missions have grown in a way that that money might make more sense to be else allocated in the town," Watt said.

This was only the first look at the data. Researchers plan to refine it and add to it as more information becomes available.

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