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Brattleboro investing in public safety

Published: Oct. 25, 2021 at 5:50 PM EDT
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BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) - Instead of possibly defunding the police, the town of Brattleboro is paying its officers more, as the community rethinks how it pays for public safety.

The Brattleboro Police Department currently has nine open positions for police officers. And those vacancies are allowing the town to invest more in public safety. That includes a 3% pay bump, on average, for current officers. Brattleboro’s chief, Norma Hardy, says the raises come at an important time. “Especially at this time with the low moral, with the anti-police sentiments that have been expressed,” she said.

More money is also being allocated for new hires. Starting pay is jumping from around $38,000 a year to $49,000. “I’ve seen a lot of pro-police sentiments also and I have seen people ask that these officers be compensated in a fair and equitable manner,” Hardy said.

The money is coming from a $340,000 surplus at the station because it’s understaffed. Along with the increased wages, $200,000 is being set aside to create a community safety fund.

“One thing that I think needs to be focused on more than ever is the homeless community, which hand in hand goes with the addicts,” said Chris Antoneillo, who owns a head shop that offers smoking products in town. “I know they are doing a lot now but whatever they are doing now, they need to do tenfold. especially since everyone is coming out of the hotels from the COVID.”

The Brattleboro Selectboard has not decided how the community safety fund will be spent. “There are a lot of different ideas in the community about what might be the best use of these funds and it is important for us to take some time and allow those ideas to be considered fully,” said Brattleboro Town Manager Peter Elwell.

Chief Hardy says while she’s glad her officers will be making more, other agencies can benefit from additional resources as well. “Especially mental health crises, and people having mental health issues, at this time, may not always need police response,” she said.

The chief added that her community, like many others, is still making its way through the pandemic. She says any additional funds allocated towards public health will go a long way towards public safety.

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