Hoffer: Council failed to confirm law enforcement officers met training requirements


Vermont Police Academy, Pittsford

by Vermont Auditor Doug Hoffer

Imagine this scenario:

A police officer from a small police department is on patrol in his patrol car late one evening when the dispatcher directs him to respond to a 911 call at a local residence. Little is known except that the caller says a family member is threatening to use violence against the caller. The officer arrives at the house. The front door is open. After announcing his arrival and that he is an officer, the officer gauges the situation. A grown man screams loudly, the caller cries and the grown man now threatens the caller and the officer and begins to aggressively approach the caller…

There can be no greater power granted by the state than that which it gives to law enforcement to perform their public safety duties. With this power comes enormous responsibility.

As part of their job, police officers have to make decisions, often quickly and in stressful situations such as the one described above. Under what circumstances to draw a firearm. To use a Taser, and if so how. Whether to use physical force and restraint. How to ensure that bias does not affect decisions to stop, search or arrest people. How to identify when someone is in a mental health crisis and what to do about it. How to identify domestic violence.

State law requires that all law enforcement officers receive proper training and adhere to certain policies. The training and policies are there for a reason – to ensure officers are continually trained to provide the highest level of public service and to protect the rights of Vermonters. The Vermont Criminal Justice Council (VCJC), an agency of the Department of Public Safety, is responsible for overseeing training and policies.

Last week, my office released a new audit of the VCJC’s efforts to ensure that Vermont law enforcement officers have received the required training and that law enforcement agencies have adopted the required policies.

What did we find?

Overall, the audit found that the VCJC had few or inadequate systems in place to ensure officers received the amount or type of training they were required to receive. The same weaknesses were noted with respect to ensuring that local law enforcement agencies have adopted required policies regarding fair and impartial policing, the use of body cameras and the use of electric weapons. conduits (commonly known as “tasers”).

Notable findings include:

  • A review of 60 officers found that in at least 12 cases there was insufficient documentation to prove officers had met the minimum 30-hour training requirement in one or both years being assessed. In addition, in 11 cases, the documentation did not indicate that the officers had taken one or more specifically required courses or that they had taken these courses for the minimum number of hours. In the example on the right, an officer was given one hour for each training for a total of three hours, when it looks like he only spent five minutes logging in and out.
  • To satisfy training requirements, some law enforcement agencies (1) included activities that VCJC staff members determined could not be accredited under their rules, (2) entered a number hours for the same training courses, (3) did not always document that a course was taught by an authorized instructor, and (4) relied on supporting documentation that did not always include the names of participants , as well as the name, date and number of hours of a course.
  • A review of 12 law enforcement agencies found that (1) four had policies that differed from the fair and impartial policing model policy, (2) seven had policies that differed from the model policy electrical weapons and (3) four had differing policies. body camera model policy. While not all of the differences were significant, some were concerning – one agency removed advice not to use electrical weapons conducted on pregnant women’s abdomens.

This verification is extremely important because it is not just about paperwork. For example, if a police officer does not receive up-to-date training in, say, the use of force, it could lead to the use of tactics newly identified as problematic and inappropriate, putting both the officer and the public in great difficulty. risk. Or if a service has not adopted appropriate fair and impartial policing policies, an officer may not know that they are violating a person’s civil rights during a traffic stop.

I am pleased that the VCJC has responded to the audit by accepting all of our findings and has begun to improve its policy training and oversight.

Everyone wins when we know agents are informed by the right training and guided by the right policies.


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