Vermont NAACP, ACLU Call For Investigation Of Bennington Police

Feb 11, 2019

Local branches of the NAACP and the American Civil Liberties Union are calling on state officials to investigate the Bennington Police Department.

The request comes after Attorney General T.J. Donovan said Bennington Police didn't share all the evidence in its investigation into racial harassment of former state lawmaker Kiah Morris.

ACLU Executive Director James Lyall said Bennington has a "systemic racism problem" which he said makes the withholding of information more concerning.

“It warrants a further investigation, a further inquiry and the public needs to know more about what information withheld, by whom,” Lyall said.

Lyall said there also needs to be a thorough examination of the criminal justice system in Bennington County. Bennington Police Chief Paul Doucette declined to comment.

Donovan said it’s not the role of his office to conduct this kind of investigation. He is urging the town to hire an outside expert to conduct the review.

“You really want to bring in a consultant, there are these consultants that do this and we think it's what is needed at this time and I urge the town of Bennington to take this action step,” Donovan said.

Bennington Town Manager Stuart Hurd said he stood by the department's handling of the investigation.  But the town is considering following Donovan's advice, he said.

Tabitha Pohl-Moore, president of the Rutland-area NAACP, said hiring an outside consultant would be a step in the "right-ish direction" but she wants Donovan to take a harder stance.

"I would also like to see more support from other state officials who have the capacity to not only oversee or kind of monitor this investigation, but to provide support to the attorney general's office and to the citizens of Bennington through this process," Pohl-Moore said.

Morris withdrew her re-election bid last year after pervasive racial harassment and threats.

The attorney general's office said last month it would not pursue criminal charges.