Brattleboro police chief pledges to ‘do better’

This article by Chris Mays originally appeared June 18 in the Brattleboro Reformer.

BRATTLEBORO — After nearly two hours of receiving feedback and answering questions at a forum, Police Chief Michael Fitzgerald said he wants to “do better.”

“I heard some really good ideas on how we can move forward,” he told the crowd. “And I certainly look forward to starting that work and doing what I can as we can have some positive change within the department and within the community.”

At one point, about 80 attendees were counted at the Brattleboro Common. They were spread out on the grass and wearing masks, keeping with public health guidelines to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

The forum came a day after the Select Board adopted the fiscal year 2021 budget without making cuts to the police department or reallocating funds as requested by a large group of community members during a meeting held via videoconferencing software. Town Manager Peter Elwell said the board made a commitment to continue to look at policing issues with feedback from the public.

Wichie Artu of Brattleboro, a representative from the Root Social Justice Center’s Black, Indigenous People of Color Caucus, said policing has a legacy of racism, as “it started by the escaped slaves being taken and being put back in the masters’ hands as an unofficial police. And once abolition came, this police force was then officiated to control black people who were supposedly free.”

Crime is used as a way to continue oppression, Artu said, recalling how the Black Panthers were deemed terrorists in the 1970s and a federal crime bill in the 1990s resulted in people of color being labelled “super predators.”

Read full article at the Brattleboro Reformer.

(Fair use with written permission from the New England Newspapers Inc.)

Image courtesy of Public domain

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