Bennington Continues Making Progress on IACP Report Recommendations
In September 2019, the Town of Bennington contracted with the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) to review and evaluate the Bennington Police Department policies and procedures for the purpose of improving community/police relations. The IACP report gave us insight on how we can improve community policing in our town. The focus for this study was to determine whether there was evidence of policies, procedures, or operational practices within the police department that created opportunities for unfair, discriminatory, or biased policing activities.
While the IACP report found no policies that would encourage systemic bias in the Bennington Police Department, it did note that the law enforcement practices of the time "appeared to be shaped by a tactical enforcement approach which could contribute to a pattern of fear of retaliation for certain segments of the community. Whether this is a factual or misperception, this practice can lead to due process concerns and create unnecessary fear of harm to members of the community.”
The report suggested 25 recommendations designed to reduce negative perceptions that could be caused by those practices. One of the recommendations included nine points, so taken collectively, there were 33 tasks outlined by the report that the Town could pursue to continue building trust and create more transparency in how the police department operates.
These recommendations were taken seriously and we have been actively working on them since the release of the final report. While a majority of the tasks have been implemented, this does not mean we are done with this work. In many cases the tasks are stepping off points for continuing efforts.
The Town of Bennington is providing an update on where we stand on the recommendations. In summary, thirty of the tasks outlined in the report have been implemented, two have been partially implemented, and one is in progress. We continue to welcome input on actions we have taken to get to this point. If there are additional things we can do to address any recommendation beyond what we have done so far, we would like your feedback. Our goal is to continue working on all of these tasks as we move forward. You can download the list of recommendations and the actions taken so far here.
Many tasks have been large in scope. A full review of all critical Bennington Police Department policies was completed over a year and a half long process that included dozens of community members working with the Police Department and Town officials and the police department. The Town hired the Vermont Partnership for Fairness and Diversity to guide the community through a series of inclusive public meetings in the creation of a new vision statement for the Town of Bennington and a mission statement for the Bennington Police Department which was approved by the Select Board in August, 2020. A year long Safety and Equity Task Force, consisting of ten community members from diverse backgrounds and police department members worked together to develop a proposal for a civilian advisory board which was completed in January of 2022. This resulted in the creation of the Community Policing Advisory Review Board (CPARB) by the Bennington Select Board. The CPARB is one of only a couple hundred such boards, mostly in larger communities, that exist in the United States which has over 19,000 police departments. The CPARB was seated for the first time in June of 2022.
Bennington Police Officers and staff have been receiving extensive and ongoing training on subjects related to community policing both before and after the IACP report. Those trainings since 2020 have included; fairness and diversity, community engaged policing, anti-bias policing, de-escalation and communication, mental health training, policing and community relationships, adult mental health first aid, racial disparity traffic stops, and fair and impartial policing training.
While implementing these IACP recommendations is a milestone in our work towards building trust between the Bennington community and the Bennington Police Department, we understand that this is only one part of our journey towards implementing the kind of community policing that we want. Our work continues and we welcome the ongoing conversation with all members of the community.
We thank our community members, the Bennington Police Department, staff, and our Town leaders for their tireless efforts over the past three years working towards accomplishing the recommendations and building upon them. This represents literally hundreds of hours of work by dozens of residents working with the Bennington Police Department and Town staff to achieve.