Vermont's attorney general reopens 2017 use-of-force case

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ST. ALBANS, Vt. (WCAX) A former Vermont police officer is facing charges after prosecutors took a fresh look at an old case. The case in St. Albans comes amid a nationwide outcry over police use of excessive force. Our Ike Bendavid talked to the attorney general about why he reopened this case.

"I was always troubled by this case. It never really sat well with me. I thought perhaps I got it wrong," said T.J. Donovan, D-Vt. Attorney General.

That was Vermont's top prosecutor reflecting on his decision not to bring an assault charge against an officer back in 2017. The attorney general took a second look earlier this year and reopened the case, pressing charges this week.

The incident involved Joel Daugreilh, 31, who was then a St. Albans officer. Donovan says Daugreilh used pepper spray on a suspect who was in custody and in handcuffs at the police station.

On Tuesday, Daugreilh pleaded not guilty to a misdemeanor charge of simple assault. He was released on conditions.

Reporter Ike Bendavid: Why reopen this case from 2017?
T.J. Donovan: We reopened this case because we received new and different information regarding an expert's conclusion regarding the use of force.

That new information came from a second expert who says that the use of force was actually unreasonable.

"To hold someone's head back and pepper spray them, I don't think is the way to not only achieve compliance but the public's trust in our process and in our policing," Donovan said.

Daugreilh lost his job after the incident back in 2017. It's unclear if he currently has a job in law enforcement.

"This is an employment matter that's several years old. It's been resolved on our books for several years. We don't have contact with him," St. Albans City Manager Dominic Cloud said.

Cloud says it was the AG's decision to reopen the case, but as the police department has been plagued with other legal issues, Cloud says it was a wake-up call when this happened.

"It was one of the first signs that we had a problem we need to take seriously and it led to some of the reforms that we are now implementing, but its several years old," Cloud said.

Donovan says police departments across the state should be re-examining their use of force and other policies.

"We need to develop new ways de-escalate situations through nonviolent means," Donovan said.

Daugreilh is due back in court at a later date.