Vermont police leaders discuss how fair and impartial policing helps, hurts law enforcement

Vermont has a growing number of so-called sanctuary cities, and yet police differ on whether the state’s insistence on shielding illegal immigrants from federal law enforcement is preventing police from keeping Vermonters safe.

Vermont has a fair and impartial policing policy. Yet police continue to be pressured by social justice activists, especially when it comes to working with federal agents to round up bad guys illegally living in the U.S.

True North contacted both a current and retired police chief to get their views on how political pressure related to immigration affects the ability of officers to do their jobs.

Montpelier Police Chief Anthony Facos was among the many witnesses who testified to lawmakers on S.79 (Act 5), legislation Gov. Phil Scott signed into law in 2017. That legislation prohibited state and local police from participating in some federal immigration enforcement efforts.

Vote for Vermont/ORCA

STRIKING A BALANCE: Montpelier Police Chief Tony Facos says fair and impartial policing law allows police to do their jobs effectively.

According to Facos, Vermont law strikes a balance between law enforcement needs and social justice.

“It made clear several key pieces, that our policies in Vermont would comport with federal law. In other words, we would not prohibit police agencies from communicating with our federal partners, and it also made clear that we are not civil immigration enforcement agents,” he said.

The 2017 law also protects illegal immigrants in situations where an illegal immigrant might need to approach local police for help, but would be afraid to, out of fear of being deported.

“If you [an illegal immigrant] are a victim of a crime, if you are a witness, if you need our services, it doesn’t matter — we want people to be able to come to us and communicate with us without fear,” Facos explained.

He added that if immigration status is relevant to an investigation, however, such as with drugs or human trafficking, state and local police are permitted to contact federal agents.

“We have a very close relationship with our federal partners the FBI, the DEA, the ATF, and even Customs — we use their assets sometimes,” he said. “And I think we are one of the only municipalities in Vermont that has an FBI task force officer.”

Facos mentioned another bill lawmakers passed last year that let Vermont municipalities choose not to communicate with the feds.

“It allowed for municipalities to, at their own risk if you will, to go against [S. 79] and add additional protections and prohibitions that would, for example, prevent their officers from communicating with the feds,” he said. “Montpelier has not done that.”

He added that immigration-related inquiries between the feds and Montpelier police that don’t pertain to a criminal investigation almost never happen.

“The reality is these conversations aren’t happening and have not happened in years,” Facos said. “So I’m just trying to provide real data to kind of debunk some of the misconceptions that are getting a lot of traction both at Statehouse and in some of our communities.”

Manchester

Michael Hall, former Manchester chief of police, retired from his position in July. But before he retired, he opposed the push to prevent local police from working on cases involving immigration status. He also takes issue with aspects of Vermont’s fair and impartial policing policy.

town of Manchester

Retired Manchester Chief of Police Michael Hall

“I was pretty strongly opposed to what this state had instituted, and essentially what they did was the legislature basically compelled the Vermont Criminal Justice Training Council to adopt a fair and impartial policing policy, which, if you read it, is basically an immigration policy,” he said.

Hall says fair and impartial policing hinders the ability of police officers to use demographics when investigating a person who might be in the country illegally.

“Basically, that’s what law enforcement consists of — taking known factors and then compiling that with other elements to arise to a level of suspicion, and then you check it out further,” he said.

Hall said he voiced his views to other police chiefs from around the state: “I said to them, ‘This is in violation of federal law. I mean, you are asking us to not cooperate with federal authority.'”

He said immigrant activist groups tend to focus on workers’ rights, such as working long hours in tough conditions for low pay, typically in agriculture. But, many immigration problems don’t involve labor issues.

“They would like to make you think it [this policy] is specifically about our migrant farmworkers. It isn’t. It applies to law enforcement’s ability to interact and investigate people of any nationality that we think may be here illegally,” Hall said.

He noted that when this policy was first adopted, the U.S. Department of Justice determined that Vermont was doing the same thing that a sanctuary city does, and it threatened to withhold $2 million in federal funding related to the Vermont Drug Task Force.

As recently as February, the DOJ said it was holding up the DOJ Byrne JAG grant and the DOJ COPS Anti-Heroin Task Force grant, pending review of Vermont’s anti-cooperation policies. But in March, Vermont officials said the Vermont Department of Public safety would, in fact, get $2.3 million in law enforcement grants from the federal government.

Hall said if someone from Vermont law enforcement contacts federal immigration authorities and files a complaint against a Vermont agency, disciplinary action may be taken against that agency. He said it already happened to Vermont’s Department of Motor Vehicles and at least one sheriff’s department.

He added that groups like Migrant Justice and the Vermont Human Rights Commission are working too closely together.

“If you look at the players that are involved in both of them, there’s a lot of … conflict-of-interest type stuff,” he said.

Michael Bielawski is a reporter for True North Reports. Send him news tips at bielawski82@yahoo.com and follow him on Twitter @TrueNorthMikeB.

Images courtesy of city of Montpelier, Vote for Vermont/ORCA and town of Manchester
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12 thoughts on “Vermont police leaders discuss how fair and impartial policing helps, hurts law enforcement

  1. Why do all the folks in Montpelier always make things complicated? The answer to this latest ponder is quite obvious, ALL municipalities should adhere one simple solution, “if you do the crime, you serve the time”. Problem solved.

  2. I take issue with this philosophy of picking and chosing which laws to enforce and which to ignore. The hypocrits in the statehouse aggressively enforce labor and tax laws………………unless they are dealing with ILLEGAL aliens in which case they conveniently become blind. Breaking laws which would land most of us in serious trouble are ignored because this idiotic idea of “social justice” trumps logic and common sense. How do you have a just society when some are subject to the rules of law and others are not? We need all of the immigrants we can get as our labor force needs are growing as more and more baby boomers are retiring, but if they don’t come here legally then our laws and our immigration system are nothing but a sad joke.

  3. We need to emulate Virginia and start declaring Second Amendment Sanctuaries. Let’s see how that goes with our tyrannical overlords pushing to solve a nonexistent problem. They’re simply bullying us because they believe they can. This coming year we either stand up or all is lost, and counting on the courts is futile.

    • I sent this sanctuary counties info and articles about VA to TNR & Ethan Allen Inst. No reply or by now an article. Out of 98 counties in VA 90 have done so. And it’s spreading to many states. VT ignored?
      I have my records including dates.

      It should happen in VT.

      • Should definitely be done for Vermont. We have only become reactionary, defensive, waiting for our socialists to lay out their new world order agenda every session and reacting.

        We know every year ahead of time what they are going to do, they don’t even need to tell us, they are if anything very, very predictable and consistent.

        We need to be on the offense. This is one great idea with a handful of men and women working together this could happen in Vermont, town by town.

        We need a plan, a strategy, a team, cooperation and a message that resonates with conservatives, independents and American loving democrats. It’s time to divide the super majority and expose the socialists who’ve been hiding under the cover of the democratic and progressive parties. Expose their true roots and calling.

        • Neil, I have said essentially the same thing in many posts here and in VT Digger. The only addition I would make is conservatives need to find a charismatic, passionate, honest, dedicated person to continually deliver the message.

          • Unfortunately, it can’t be our first and only message, because candidly most people don’t have a clue on how important it is. But somebody needs to have a backbone on this issue while dealing with the monetary and legal chaos in our state. It can’t be done alone, or likely not to be accomplished. Think of where Trump would without the freedom caucus. A savior would be nice, if we’d have cooperation amoung 10-12 conservatives, independents and some American loving democrats we might have a functioning group that could make a difference, it would be fun too.

          • Neil, I grew up in Lyndonville, VT, but moved to across the river to Littleton, NH about 15 years ago and married a wonderful Littleton native. I love NH – even though it is a Democratic state (and I am decidedly conservative) it has not yet been infected with the Vermont brand of “Universal Socialism”.
            I am 74, but were I a younger man and still living in Vermont, I would jump into the fray to help reinvigorate the Conservative party and help fashion a new revitalized conservative message and hope for the Vermont citizenry. It is definitely a challenge and effort worth anyone’s commitment.

  4. Great coverage Michael, well done. We see two sides of a story, allowed to make our own decisions, how refreshing is that? Very, very refreshing.

  5. This infuriates me. Folks now talk about “Sanctuary Jurisdictions” as if they were legal entities, which they are decidedly not. Our country has a border, it has a requirement demanded by law of those that want cross those borders and enter into our country. Our country has requirements of non- citizens to work and remain in this country. EVERY country has these requirements.
    All duly constituted law enforcement should be required to carry out the laws of this country, not what pockets of anti-American entities decide is their law. It is scary how the “universal Socialists” have infiltrated the landscape. Having the support of all law enforcement to identify and remove illegal aliens from our country should not even be a debate whatsoever.

    • doth thou not have great affection for new ordering of our world? 🙂 What is yours is mine sayeth the government! come embrace thy social justice, where promises are great.

  6. Governor Scott, his signing of S-79 was just another slap in the face to Vermonter’s,
    I mean real Vermonter’s, not all the transplants in the StateHouse….

    The only problem with policing in Vermont, are the roadblocks put in place by the
    Progressives in Montpelier, and that includes ” Flip Flop ” Phil………… what a shame

    Vermont deserves better

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