City Council Statement on Policing - June 15, 2020

The Saint Albans City Council is saddened and outraged by the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police. We stand in solidarity with our community, and people across the country, stating unequivocally that black lives matter. The Council supports the peaceful protest of systems that oppress people of color and far too often lead to violent encounters between citizens and the police officers who are sworn to serve and protect them. All lives can’t matter, until black lives matter.

Even before the national conversation about policing reform erupted in the wake of Minneapolis, the City Council was taking a hard look at our own police department. The excessive uses of force by a few former members of the SAPD have not just made headlines, they have led us to reexamine our policies and the programs we invest in to keep the public safe. These acts of violence do not represent Saint Albans values or the values of most of our officers. The City Council has supported the termination of these officers from the SAPD and the update of use of force policies. The City has engaged an experienced consultant, Municipal Resources, Inc. (MRI), to advise us on how to improve our police hiring practices. As we engage with the public over policing, it is obvious we have more work to do.

Saint Albans has come a long way in revitalizing our downtown and neighborhoods. The Street Crimes Unit has been successful in addressing drug-related activities in the City. Our officers are dedicated professionals who do incredible work to keep our community safe, and we wholly support them in this work.

At the same time, the City Council will not hesitate to use its authority to identify and change policies that contribute to oppression and injustice. We will work to examine our own biases and those of our police department head on. The City will continue to seek positive change through the reform of our police officer recruitment, background check processes, and training on de-escalation strategies. Saint Albans has an opportunity to get a fresh perspective as we engage in the search for a new Chief of Police. Every person in Saint Albans should be able to feel that the police are there to serve and protect them, regardless of their race, gender, socio-economic status, what neighborhood they live in, or any other factor.

To this end, City leaders will be discussing recommendations of a variety of experts as we examine our police department’s policies with fresh eyes. We will look to provide opportunities for greater citizen involvement in the policing discussion. The City of Saint Albans will use evidence-based approaches to make our police department one that we can all continue to be proud of.

The Mayor and City Council ask citizens to engage with us in an open and honest discussion so we can listen to concerns and seek the right solutions for our police department. To those calling for us to take a broader view of what policing might look like in our community: We hear you.

Thank you to all of those who have called, written, or participated in a City Council meeting to express your concerns. Each one of us has a responsibility for our own role in keeping the Saint Albans community safe for everyone. The City Council will do its part. Together, we can learn, and we can change.

Sincerely,

Mayor Tim Smith
Ward 1 Councilor Timothy Hawkins
Ward 2 Councilor James Pelkey
Ward 3 Councilor Marie Bessette
Ward 4 Councilor Mike McCarthy
Ward 5 Councilor Kate Laddison
Ward 6 Councilor Chad Spooner

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