June 5, 2020
Incoming Chief Brian Peete’s Statement
George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, Trayvon Martin, Eric Garner and many others have lost their lives at the hands of castigators or police officers who have served within my profession. The profession that I love deeply and have sworn an oath to. The demands for change for how both law enforcement and society at large confronts subconscious, implicit and racial bias has not come despite the many times these same scenes play out over and over across the country. Scenes that involve people of color. Scenes that involve members of the LGBTQ community. Scenes that involve all who are socially and economically disadvantaged. You may be confused, mad and hurt. I am hurt. Still, what pulls me up is my faith in solidarity and my belief that goodness lies in each of us. This goodness is playing out across the world and right here in Montpelier. You are standing up for change, for people whose voices have been drowned out or ignored; rightfully demanding accountability and transparency: that police cultures collectively evolve into a mindset that is determined to guard the public and provide safety and protection to every person. Basic Human Rights. Dignity. Respect.
Police Chiefs have a duty to protect and preserve fundamental rights. We are accountable for the protection of every citizen, and we are especially accountable to those we lead: our officers, dispatchers and civilians. To give them the support, exposure, resources and the training they need to ensure their mental health and well-being so that they can do their jobs safely and without fear of reprisal especially in speaking up when they see something wrong. We must be servants with the courage to no longer be complicit to a culture that has historically and systemically dehumanized and oppressed those who stand outside of “traditional” norms: people of color, LGBTQ, those suffering from mental illness and the social and economically disadvantaged. We must work quickly to be part of a solution, but we must move at a responsible pace so to ensure we get this right because real lives, including those of our officers, hang in the balance. There are many good officers who are just and responsibly do their jobs everyday: women and men who have made positive differences in the lives of those they’ve come across.
Montpelier is a City that stands at the fore front of progression. People are engaged. Elected leaders listen. Administration listens. The Police Department listens. For any flaws or mistakes our government may have, I know the intention and spirit here is defaulted to service above all other interests. Montpelier is “woke.” In our push for change we must be mindful to not allow the sins of the past to destroy a future of hope. There is a diligence for each of us in building our local and national governments into establishments worthy of the public trust. I am proud to be here, and I believe we have everything we need to continue leading the way and to set the example of what true inclusive, diversity, transparency and responsiveness is. There are tough robust conversations coming about how to face and deal with the issues within our country and its institutions and I look forward to not only having them but acting on them. We will need all your candor and help because only together we can do this.
May 29, 2020
We must do better. We must lead.
The recent events in Satilla Shores (GA), Central Park, and Minneapolis have left us all saddened, angry and stunned. We as a society can and must do better to take care of our neighbors, continue to confront implicit bias head-on, and treat everyone with the dignity and respect that all people deserve. Members of our department, including myself, watched the video of the Minneapolis police officer, using unlawful force with complete disregard for the sanctity of human life, as other officers did nothing to stop it. Our outrage and shock have served to galvanize our commitment to re-assuring communities of color, LGBTQ, and other individuals who may feel marginalized and who may even be fearful of those of us who have taken an oath, and dedicated our lives to the protection and service of others. We cannot ignore the fact that many in our community may once again, or have always been, living in fear of the police.
Law enforcement officers and the communities they serve have made great strides in building genuine trust and legitimacy in policing. Together, police and citizens have fostered open and honest dialogue, solved problems, and have worked collaboratively to improve quality of life and public safety. It is this coming together that defines us as Vermonters.
In 2015, President Obama created a task force on 21st Century Policing. This task force, chaired by Charles Ramsey, Commissioner of the Philadelphia Police Department (Ret.) and Laurie Robinson, Professor, George Mason University, tackled an enormous policing problem fueled by racism and mistrust of police in many jurisdictions throughout America, and Vermont was not immune. This task force, comprised of law enforcement leaders, academia, and key stakeholders, examined the problems with policing, many of which were deeply rooted in turbulent historic episodes. Understanding the “how we got here” question, the task force identified the way forward for American policing. For the most part, lessons learned in the transformative years of 2014 to 2016, were not that different from what Sir Robert Peel laid out in his 9 Principles of Law Enforcement in 1829. For example:
“The police at all times should maintain a relationship with the public that gives reality to the historic tradition that the police are the public and the public are the police...”
Let us take this time to stand united, listen to each other, be accountable to each other, and strive to do better. Together we will lead our communities through another dark chapter in American history.
Chief Tony Facos