Vt. attorney general weighs in on policing issues in the state

Published: Jan. 24, 2019 at 12:26 AM EST
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The Rutland chapter of the NAACP invited Vermont Attorney General T.J. Donovan to talk about the state's criminal justice system.

A variety of topics were discussed Wednesday evening, including how the state handled online threats sent to former Vermont Rep. Kiah Morris.

Morris abruptly stepped down as a House representative last year after becoming the target of racial harassment online

Donovan says Morris was a victim of racial harassment but no charges will be filed because of free speech protections.

Many at the forum thought the state should have prosecuted the man behind the online threats.

Donovan told the crowd that the state did not have enough evidence to prosecute the man but he says his office is still investigating.

He also touched on new recommendations to the state on enhancing protective measures for immigrants. He wants police agencies to have more control over officers' communications with immigration authorities.

"We have to be unequivocal that law enforcement is local. It’s not a factor of ICE. We need to do community policing in Vermont, which is based on trust and relationships, not only from the policing community but from community to police,” said Donovan.

Donovan is also calling for Vermont police to be better trained to spot hate crimes and bias.

In 2017, the state got backlash from the federal government for requiring standardization of fair and impartial policing policies. Donovan says negotiations with the federal government are still ongoing.

WCAX News asked Donovan if the state could face repercussions from the federal government from this new policy.

Donovan said his main goal is to move forward and protect Vermonters, regardless of what the federal government says.