On October 25, 2023

Committee presents policing recommendation for Hartland

 

 

 

By Curt Peterson 

At the Oct.16 Select Board meeting the Policing in Hartland Committee presented recommendations for future law enforcement. Mandi Potter, committee chair and a selectwoman, read the 1.5-page report created by the seven-member panel.

At the committee’s Oct. 11 meeting, Potter condensed results of a public forum and other resident input. First, she said, “Everyone wants policing at a level above the current situation.”

Response time to a call is very important to Hartlanders, Potter said, and currently contracted Vermont State Police has a less than stellar response record. In one case a woman finding a male intruder in her house called for help — the Windsor Police Dept. responded in 5 minutes, and a state trooper arrived 30 minutes later.

Committee member Chris Knippenberg emphasized the desire for better traffic control — Hartland comprises a large area with two state highways and many narrow dirt roads. Increased traffic, speeding, impairment and inattention make driving, cycling and walking dangerous.

After VSP policing, they have asked small contracted towns to look elsewhere for law enforcement, leading to formation of the committee.

Suggestions for replacing VSP services with an independent police department, a daunting and expensive undertaking, was not recommended. Hartford, Woodstock and Windsor municipal police departments were mentioned as possible providers, as well as the Windsor County Sheriff Dept.

Tom Kennedy, committee member and selectman, said assuming these choices have the resources to serve Hartland may be erroneous. 

Sheriff Ryan Palmer said a contract to serve Hartland might warrant an adjustment in their manpower and hours, but it can be done.

People are generally “Ok” with increasing the town’s current $80,000 policing budget, which covers both the VSP contract and the cost of the town constable.

“The committee recommends a minimum of 90% of [the chosen policing provider’s] staff be level 3 certified officers,” they stated, Oct. 16.

By this measure, Windsor County Sheriff’s Dept. has approximately 55% Level 3 certified officers, and Windsor Police Department has approximately 92%.

A Level 2 certified officer can respond to and enforce a specified list of crimes, or crimes in process. Within reason he/she may take action to protect a person from harm. But if the situation isn’t specified as within his/her authority, he/she must call for an officer certified (Level 3) to pursue enforcement.

Kennedy also said the FY 2025 budget is already in discussion, so urged identifying financial recommendations by November.

He added the elected constable position can be eliminated by a vote at Town Meeting.

It can’t be contemplated in the town budget, but a traffic ticket fine-sharing arrangement benefiting a town might reduce policing’s net cost.

Member Trace Trancreti suggested Hartland will need active policing 40 hours per week. As a reference, Potter said Windsor currently charges West Windsor $104,500 for 15-20 hours per week coverage.

If people want 40 hours per week, the budget might have to be as much as $240,000 to $250,000, she said.

Long-term goals identified in the report mention an independent police department, a town-wide survey to get feedback on real-time satisfaction levels with the chosen service, and an inventory of community resources and willing involvement that might be employed to support law enforcement.

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