Letter: Accurate information is important

Editor’s note: This letter is by Michael Hall, of East Arlington. He is the executive director of the Vermont Police Coalition.

In policing, a critical aspect of the job is the information that you have in order to make decisions. As I read the article a few days ago about the Vermont Supreme Court reversing a decision on a drug arrest made by the Bennington Police Department, I was reminded as to how important accurate information is. Inaccurate information can be as damaging if not more so.

In this case the police stopped a vehicle and subsequently sought a search warrant for the vehicle, which was granted by the court. As in many cases, the stop and the search were appealed before the court, only to be upheld. As part of our judicial process, the case eventually made its way to the Vermont Supreme Court, which overturned the case dismissing the evidence (drugs) that were found in the car.

town of Manchester

Michael Hall is a retired Manchester chief of police and the director of the Vermont Police Coalition.

This is how our judicial process works, and most of the time it works well. What’s disturbing about this case is that it appears that the Supreme Court took into consideration inaccurate information.

In handing down its decision, the court referred to a study that was produced by UVM Professor Stephanie Seguino labeled “Driving While Black and Brown in Vermont.” The accuracy of this widely distributed and referred to study has been called into question since its release by many, including myself.

Unfortunately, there has been little debate or pushback by Vermont law enforcement regarding this study, which has taken on a validity to which it is not warranted. The study often referred to by members of the Legislature and others has now infiltrated itself into our criminal justice system.

For our highest court to be utilizing inaccurate information in its decision-making should be concerning to everyone. There is no doubt that our judges are well intended, but as a police officer I know the information you base your decisions on are critical. The court makes their decision, based on what they have in front of them, in this case without knowing that the evidence for their decision is tainted. That’s not to say that mistakes don’t happen, because they do.

In the case of the Seguino – Brooks, study there is plenty of reason to give pause to its validity.

The Vermont Crime Research Group provides statistical data to police departments and governmental agencies to include the Vermont Legislature. They reviewed the Seguino study and found that it was “was seriously flawed and its conclusions do not stand up to academic rigor.”

It further states the following: The Seguino and Brooks study also uses inappropriate methodology for benchmarking.

Other experts have also found the study flawed.

We’ve all heard the clich “garbage in, garbage out.” In some cases, the results of bad data go unnoticed, in others it causes catastrophic results. Whenever bad or inaccurate information makes its way into the mindset of our highest court, we all have reason to be concerned. The fact is bad evidence results in bad decisions. The Vermont Supreme Court needs to recognize the fact that they in part based their decision on tainted evidence and should reconsider its ruling.

As a society, we need to get past our fear of being labeled a racist because we question something that involves a sensitive topic. We need to address the issues at hand based upon accurate information, facts and science.

Michael Hall
East Arlington

Images courtesy of Public domain and town of Manchester

4 thoughts on “Letter: Accurate information is important

  1. If someone is arrested for good reason and happens to be black, it’s labled “racism”. On the other hand, if the same arrest occurs and the individual happens to be white it’s characterized as keeping the peace and protecting society from the bad guys. Unfortunately, the blind libs on the state Supreme Court when puzzled, take that aproach when handing down “justice” as they see it. Nothing new here. It continues to be the same old, same old.

  2. Not merely the judges, although the Vermont Supreme Court is a major guilty party in a multitude of decisions that subvert or violate our Constitution, such as allowing 6 senators from Chittenden County instead of two, like the rest. No, every elected official who has not vigorously fought for our freedoms and a moral society must be removed and the executive branch programs eliminated en masse.

  3. “Blind justice” can’t happen when it is so infected with guilt about racism.
    Yes it is possible that people who are not Caucasian can be guilty of crimes.
    Bending the law to somehow even out the past in not just. It is racism!
    Two wrongs never make a right.
    I recall living in a time when we seemed to be headed in the direction of justice, but sadly that is now history.
    But it’s not going back to where it was, it’s gone off the other side, and it is as bad or worse now.
    Justice is truth, nothing else.

  4. I thought that court decisions were supposed to be based on facts and the evidence. Now they are using studies to make their decision. Where’s the justice in that?
    What is happening to the Vermont judicial system? Sounds like some of these judges need to be dismissed from the bench..

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