By Guy Page
Crime-riddled Springfield, Vermont has hired Lincoln, NH police officer and Brattleboro native Jeff Burnham as its new police chief.
Here’s what awaits him after he is sworn in at 11 AM Thursday, September 1 in the Town Hall:
An understaffed police department. The town has been offering $10,000 hiring bonuses for patrol officers and sergeants. But (like many Vermont police departments) the local PD is still understaffed – reportedly down by eight members.
Among many possible reasons, one could be lack of support from the county’s state’s attorney, Windsor County State’s Attorney Ward Goodenough – the son of Windsor County Sen. Allison Clarkson. He has written “Giglio letters” of complaint about two Springfield police officers. Of Goodenough’s three Giglio letters to date, two have been directed at the Springfield PD.
Giglio letters – also known as Brady letters – are published online by the ACLU of Vermont. They are used by prosecutors to put the legal and law enforcement community on notice about alleged concerns about police misconduct. They are particularly popular among Progressive prosecutors with an adversarial position with local law enforcement. As of June 8, George Soros’-backed Chittenden County prosecutor Sarah George has filed the most (13), with Rutland County’s Rosemary Kennedy a close second at 12.
Springfield’s reputation as a crime center of Vermont is well-earned. Just last Thursday a man with nine outstanding arrest warrants was arrested after breaking a school window and trying to enter in the early morning hours. Springfield has been the scene of numerous shootings this year, some of them fatal and most of them apparently drug-related.
The local library is screening films portraying cops as racist killers. According to Front Porch Forum, the Springfield Town Library, in conjunction with the Springfield Family Center, on September 21 will air “The Hate You Give,” a PG-13 movie based on a best-selling young adult’s book in which police are portrayed as racist killers of a young black man. The Springfield library director is Sue Dowdell, who is also a member of the town’s Declaration of Inclusion Implementation Committee.
The FPF announcement by Springfield library staff member Tracey Craft doesn’t name the film, but gives this outline:
Sixteen-year-old Starr Carter moves between two worlds: the poor neighborhood where she lives and the fancy suburban prep school she attends. The uneasy balance between these worlds is shattered when Starr witnesses the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend Khalil at the hands of a police officer. Khalil was unarmed.
Soon afterward, his death is a national headline. Some are calling him a thug, maybe even a drug dealer and a gangbanger. Protesters are taking to the streets in Khalil’s name. Some cops and the local drug lord try to intimidate Starr and her family. What everyone wants to know is: what really went down that night? And the only person alive who can answer that is Starr.
The announcement of the film’s screening provoked backlash on Springfield social media. “This is like pouring gasoline on a fire,” a Springfield resident said. “This can have NO positive effect on our community that is ALREADY suffering from a lack of officers.”
“I’m honestly speechless that this is a promoted movie for children ages 13 and up at the local library and sponsored by the family center,” one parent said. “I don’t really know how to feel about it, but I do find it distasteful to host a movie night like this in a town where crime is out of control and we don’t have enough police as it is. It is down right disrespectful to our men and women in uniform. It’s teaching our children to fear police and segregate our community further.”
Into this cauldron of crime and police criticism steps Burnham, who had served with the Lincoln PD for nine years, most recently holding the rank of captain. He previously worked for Concord and Claremont NH police departments, and holds a masters degree in management and criminal justice from the University of Maryland (2012) and a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice from Castleton State College (1994).
Burnham made it clear in an interview with WCAX that he won’t assume a “now straighten up, there’s a new sheriff-in-town” attitude. Instead, he wants to develop relationships throughout the community.
“It’s being intricately woven into the community so that they know you, you know them, and it doesn’t have to be on an ‘us vs. them’ situation — it is kind of a ’we,’” Burnham said.
Categories: Local government