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Brattleboro Police Chief Letter to Citizens

To the Citizens of Brattleboro,

I have been approached numerous times and asked about my philosophy on policing and the direction I will lead the Department. I would like to take this opportunity to express my thoughts on policing and the role of the Brattleboro Police Department within this community.

I am a very strong advocate of community involved policing. This concept is not new, these are not my original ideas, and most importantly it’s certainly not a list of activities which you go down and check off the boxes as completed. It is a value system which permeates the department.

The goal is to work cooperatively with individual citizens, groups of citizens, and both public and private organizations to identify and resolve issues which potentially affect the livability of the community. Working with the community we will stress prevention, early identification and timely intervention by dealing with issues before they become unwieldy problems.

Officers will be encouraged to spend considerable time and effort in developing and maintaining personal relationships with citizens, businesses, schools, and community organizations. By fostering this relationship we can significantly improve the ability of the department to discover criminal conduct, clear offenses, and make arrests. This is a process that evolves, develops, takes root and grows, until it is an integral part of the formal and informal value system of both the police and community as a whole.

My philosophy of policing emphasizes citizen interaction and participation in problem solving. It exists when officers spend a significant amount of their available time out of their patrol cars, when officers are a common sight in businesses, schools, recreation areas and walking downtown. It is when an organization wouldn’t even think of tackling a significant issue of community concern without involving the police. We will have an open and well-used process for addressing citizen grievances.

Policing is much more than law enforcement. Officers need to accept a significant role in issues that might be referred to as “social work”. Officers need to understand that being involved in “social work” is a form of valid and valuable police work, which affects the livability of a community. Rather than treating these activities as diversions from “real” police work, officers need to understand that this is the essence of their work.

The department will define success and accomplishment primarily by outcomes and the satisfaction of the consumer of our services, the citizens of Brattleboro, rather than by strictly internal measures of the amount of work completed. We need to increase the emphasis on outcomes. Doing the right thing is as important as doing things right.

I am very fortunate to have the type of caliber of men and women who are currently employed within the department to start this journey with. They are consummate professionals that have dedicated themselves unselfishly for the betterment of our community. We are excited to bring our service to the next level and for all the successes that lie ahead.

Thank you for your kind words of support and confidence. I look forward to serving you.

Michael R. Fitzgerald, Chief
Brattleboro Police Department


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Good luck to Chief Fitzgerald

Chief Fitzgerald's letter to the citizens expresses an enlightened understanding of sound policing principles and policies. It is also excellent writing.

This statement does not have the stale sound of a typical press release, so if it is the product of a PR expert, they did a great job. I truly hope that this letter is totally heartfelt, because if so it bodes well for our town.


Thank you

Thank you for taking the time to write this letter, and thank you for doing all that you do to make Brattleboro an even better place to live.


regarding militarization

While on Facebook one day I landed on the BPD page, in which I found the invitation to meet, have some coffee, and get to know some of our local police officers. I thought the idea was wonderful, so I "liked" the page so I could read more in my own timeline. It was a refreshing change from the posts that pepper my time line that link to stories of police misconduct and brutality, and the growing prevalence of militarization of police in the country. The basic theme running throughout those stories is the huge disconnect between the police officers and the people they are meant to protect; so any opportunity to get to know our own local officers, to have a positive connection to those meant to "protect and serve" our community, is a perfect panacea to such a frightening trend.

During my years as a therapeutic foster care parent, I took in the teenagers who had come into the system as a result of problems such as drug/alcohol addiction, and fueled by mental health issues induced by years of familial abuse. As a result of some of the teens' distressed behaviors that would land them in hot water, I got to know many of the local officers. Among them were several who came my home to act as a safety net, providing support when a teen was having a particularly difficult time and displaying a dangerous behavior. Others caught a few of my teens during their involvement in illegal activities, such as using drugs/alcohol (including, at one point, my own biological child--it was his most indelible teen-aged indiscretion *sigh*).

Aside from one very specific incident, never did an officer come to arrest any of my teens. In that one instance, it was the teen who (after a lengthy and emotional discussion about his role in a poor choice of activity) made the call to the police to turn himself in. Most of the time, when a cop was brought into a situation, the BPD officer provided a kind of moral strength and feeling of security, and they assisted in that moment's opportunity to help a child learn from his/her error in judgement, helpingf to make better choices that improved their life situations.

Needless to say, those experiences gave me a very positive feeling about our local officers, and I always waved and said hello when I'd see them in the community. I knew them personally--some were neighbors, or lived in neighboring towns, or had kids the same ages as my own and in the same schools. I respected them, and I felt they had respect for me in return, as a neighbor and as a citizen.

In the last few years, however, there seems to have been a huge turn over of the employed officers in our town. I still wave and smile to the officers I see patrolling in their cars, simply as a gesture of positive acknowledgement, but I no longer recognize their faces. I don't know who they are. In light of all the social media attention to a very real, and growing nation-wide, problem of police indifference to citizens' legal and human rights, there is concern as to whether our own police force may have gone through a similar transformation.

For this very reason, your "Coffee with a Cop" initiative is an extraordinarily brilliant idea, and I hope you will continue it, and vigorously promote local participation. I firmly believe that communities that have strong, interpersonal connections to, and neighborly relationship with, their local cops will see a dramatic decline in the kind of fear-inducing police tactics being seen nationally, and that is creating the "Us-versus-Them" mentality of mistrust between officer and citizen alike.

I also believe that having relationship of trust between police and community has a positive effect decreasing crime. If we don't fear police, but trust them, we're more likely to reach out for help when it's needed, and to provide answers and support when they need to question us. Concurrently, police who have a familiarity with the people they serve are far less likely to risk crossing legal boundaries against a person during a routine roadside stop, or resorting to the "thug"like, bullying tactics--- wih someone they've recently had a discussion with about local politics and the weather over a cup of coffee.

Now if you could just get them out of their cars and walking around town to meet and chat with people, and talking with youth in town (in non-authoritarian, non-threatening, friendly way), and going into local businesses to say hello... I guarantee that the community as a whole, including police, would feel safer, and be safer for everyone. It's all about sewing the seeds of mutual trust and respect, supporting an officer's oath to "Protect and Serve" the community, rather than sewing seeds of mistrust, that promote an unspoken promise to "Control by Fear and Force", that makes all the difference.


Substantive comment

Thank you SkylerWind, for make a substantive comment.

I like the new chief's intentions, but not necessarily all the methods.

I have so much on my plate now, but might revisit this letter (and comments) at another time.


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