By Guy Page
The June 20 decertification of a former Springfield police officer for inappropriate on-duty sexual behavior and the June 21 decision by State Police to investigate its own investigation of a former Bellows Falls police officer are the latest examples of an unsettling truth: as individuals, Vermont police – like other professionals – are not immune from sexual misbehavior ranging from professionally inappropriate to downright criminal.
First, some necessary caveats: of course, everyone is innocent until proven guilty. Police in particular may be subject to backlash as a result of their investigations. This cursory overview of sex crime investigations and charges filed against Vermont police does not assume their guilt, unless subsequently established by a court of law. And finally, Vermont Daily Chronicle isn’t picking on cops. We plan to publish a similar overview of sex crime investigations and charges made against Vermont individuals in other professions charged with protecting those they serve – including but not limited to religious leaders and educators.
But just as police, like everyone else, are innocent until proven guilty, so the charges brought against them are (as for everyone else) public record. The official actions taken regarding the officers are listed in chronological order, beginning with the most recent.
June 21 – Public Safety Commissioner Jennifer Morrison ordered an administrative review of Vermont State Police investigations into former Bellows Falls Police Dept. and former federal Homeland Security Investigations officer William Hoyt.
The investigation was prompted by a complaint made by his ex-fiance to the Vermont State Police Advisory Commission, a civilian oversight and review board.
“Polly Neely provided historical information regarding alleged criminal conduct by her estranged fiancé William Hoyt, and her concerns [about] his behavior throughout the years, was being covered up by members of the Vermont State Police, and the cases that were investigated by the State Police were reportedly inadequately investigated,” draft minutes of the June 21 meeting say.
“Commissioner Morrison asked the Internal Affairs Unit to conduct an Administrative Review of the investigations the State Police have investigated pertaining to Ms. Neely’s complaints of William Hoyt’s criminal behavior,” the minutes say.
Hoyt, a Bellows Falls Police Dept. officer for 10 years until 2005, was a “person of interest” in a lewd-and-lascivious-conduct-with-a child investigation in 2015, according to State Police documents seen by VDC. Charges were not brought because the state police officer investigating the case said the statute of limitations had passed. Despite having a sex crimes investigation in his background, Homeland Security appointed him to assist with the Springfield, MA outreach program of Project Safe Child, “a nationwide initiative to combat the growing epidemic of child sexual exploitation and abuse abuse.”
June 20 – Springfield Police Cpl. Shaun Smith was permanently decertified by the Vermont Criminal Justice Council. Smith, who no longer works as a Vermont police officer, will not be allowed to work as a police officer again. The council found he had engaged in gross misconduct, including Failing to Exercise Authority of Position and Inappropriate Conduct Towards the Public. Specifically, in 2020 Smith:
- was seen parked in various parking lots around town, sometimes speaking with women unrelated to official duty.
- was believed by members of the police department to be engaged in a pattern of inappropriate behavior and was pursuing extramarital affairs with multiple women while on duty.
- acknowledged that while on duty he made arrangements via Facebook messenger to meet with women.
January 30, 2023 – former Brighton and Canaan Police Chief Jeffrey Noyes, 54, of Bloomfield, was charged by State Police with felony sexual assault arising from an incident that occurred in October 2017 involving an underage girl. Noyes is the former chief of the Brighton and Canaan police departments and was on duty at the time of the incident.
June 28, 2022 – Former Addison County Sheriff Peter Newton of Middlebury is awaiting trial following his arrest on multiple charges related to sexual and domestic assault, in connection with a March 3 incident at his home. Newton was sheriff at the time of the alleged offense. He did not run for re-election in 2022.
August 24, 2021 – Former Caledonia County Sheriff’s Dept. Captain Stephen Bunnell, 47, of St. Johnsbury was cited by Vermont State Police on suspicion of prostitution and prohibited conduct. VSP detectives learned that Bunnell sought nude photographs and/or sex in exchange for money from several women who were involved with the criminal justice system, state police say.