Killington's police officer in charge is asking the town's
three-man Select Board to form a town police department and appoint
officers to positions within it, a move that would do
away with elected constables and a lack of information on
offenders in town.
The idea, proposed last week by longtime town Second
Constable Whit Montgomery under the 2013 budget the Board
recently approved ($79,500), would do away with politics in law
enforcement and would allow Montgomery and two other part-time
officers, when hired, to access more information than just
Vermont criminal and traffic histories.
The Select Board was expected to weigh in on an article for the
March Town Meeting Day ballot for voters Jan. 29 that would
ask voters to give them the sole authority to appoint a first
constable and a second constable if needed, paving the way
toward a town police department accountable to the town
manager and the Select Board as opposed to the current
constable structure, which allows anyone, regardless of law
enforcement background, to run for either position and win
based on the number of votes each March.
Currently, according to Montgomery, when he (the only constable
in town following the departure this year of First Constable Scott
Bigelow) makes a traffic stop of a car with an out-of-state license
plate he can only access driving infractions that driver made in
Vermont, not the drivers home state or any other state, which
potentially limits crucial information.
For Montgomery, that poses a problem.
But even more, Montgomery said in an interview last week, he
doesn't believe law enforcement in Killington should be
based on a "popularity contest," each year at an annual
"I truly feel law enforcement should not be asking for votes,"
Montgomery said during his presentation to the Select Board. "I
feel this can lead to corruption, selective enforcement, bullying
and invites politics into law enforcement, where it should have no
place. The Constable is not a position of power, it is about
responsibility and maturity to act wisely in potentially
Prior to last year, Killington voters gathered in the Killington
Elementary School gym and nominated, by voice vote, who they wanted
to run law enforcement operations in town, in traditional town
Bigelow and Montgomery were always present.
Last year, the meeting was switched to be based solely on paper
Montgomery said he wasn't proposing a police department
to guarantee he gets a constable position in 2013.
"I'm not worried about that. I've been voted in for at least the
decade by the majority of the voters," Montgomery said.
"My intent is to eliminate the whole possibility of popularity
among law enforcement. You don't need any law enforcement
experience to be voted into the constable position (currently)," he
Montgomery said he recently proposed the idea after doing his
"homework" - researching how to get more accountability for law
enforcement in Killington with the Vermont League of Cities and
Towns and the Vermont State Police.
He said he concluded it wouldn't take more money in 2013, but it
would require public support of appointed, as opposed to elected,
constables, to get a police department started.
"In Killington, we use the constables as the main law
enforcement in town, not the state police," he said. "That's
how its been as long as I can remember. Other towns have moved
to police departments and we are behind the times. The timing
right now makes sense. There is no need to
If the Select Board decides to put the measure on the ballot,
voters will decide whether to start the ball rolling on the
Montgomery said this year, the town law enforcement operation
will largely stay the same under the current budget plan.
In the future, a dispatcher could be added and a fully
operational department in town could cost $200,000, Montgomery
Town Manager Seth Webb confirmed that if the article
passes, there will be no new healthcare, benefits or other added
cost to the 2013 budget.
Selectman Jim Haff, said in an interview that he supports the
plan so cops in town have more information on who they pull
"Even if you are my worst enemy, I don't feel you should have to
approach a car with a New York plate and not get the information on
any criminal record in New York," he said. "We have been putting
whoever out there and we have been lucky."
Haff also said he thinks the Board has an obligation to
advertise the chief position to the public.
In November of last year, supporters gave Montgomery a
round of applause during his budget presentation, a plan that
included a $5,000 increase for hiring two new, part-time officers
during the busy, winter season and the goals of more community
policing, advocacy in schools and among seniors and more crime
deterrent with Neighborhood Watch.
Killington constables and/or the State Police have responded to
an average of 700 calls per year over the last three years. In
comparison, communities of a similar size and nature responded to
300 incidents in 2009, Montgomery noted in his presentation to the
Select Board. Additionally, Killington allocates much less funding
to it's policing activities as a percentage of municipal
expenditures, compared to similar towns in the state. Winhall,
Waterbury, Dover, Ludlow, Stowe and Manchester allocated 13-26% of
their municipal expenditures to law enforcement; Killington
allocated 2.12%, according to the chart Montgomery presented. That
includes the 21%($14,050) budget increase over 2012 to account for
capital need for replacement cruisers, as voted on last year, and
wage increases, which include two part-time certified officers.
"The Killington Police Dept. will be a part time law enforcement
organization, responsible for 43 linear miles of roads, 3,043 tax
accounts and up to 16,000 people on a busy weekend (winter/summer)"
said Montgomery of his vision for the department moving forward.
"We will be able to accomplish our purpose on a reasonable
Cristina Kumka is a correspondent for The
Mountain Times, she can be reached at