June 10, 2020
Dear Mayor Tim Smith and City Councilors,
St. Albans residents have a legacy of showing up for the liberation of Black people. This city’s ancestors were part of the anti-slavery movement and helped enslaved people in their journey to get free. Perhaps you know this history, but it bears repeating.
We know that the work of anti-slavery in St. Albans was multiracial. When enslaved African Americans courageously risked everything to fight for their freedom, which is the birthright of all people, St. Albans residents helped them because they believed slavery was immoral. We know that William Davis, a free black man who lived in St. Albans and worked as a barber, sheltered African-Americans seeking their freedom. Among white people in St. Albans who were committed to anti-slavery were Lawrence and Fidelia Brainerd and Asa O. Aldis. St. Albans was a community that helped them to Canada or Liberia or to free their family and loved ones still in bondage. It didn’t matter that they weren’t from here or the same color. That’s just who we were. This is the Saint Albans we want to return to, a St. Albans that seeks justice.
We are rooted in this history. We own houses on Brainerd Street and walk with our children and dogs on Aldis Hill. Like Davis, Brainerd, and Aldis, we are moved by compassion and a commitment to equity for our community. We affirm that Black Lives Matter and we stand in solidarity with the global movement for Black lives. We are St. Albans residents who care immensely about our entire community. We are committed to making St. Albans safer for all people. We believe it is the responsibility of the citizens who employ the police force to question the institution and our local government. We take this responsibility seriously.
We do not want St. Albans to continue its delusion of exceptionalism. Police violence is present here. Racism is present here. And we believe that St. Albans can heal from these wounds. We believe that St. Albans can be safe for everyone and we acknowledge the reality that this is not currently true. We hear from our Black and brown neighbors, our neighbors in recovery, our neighbors with disabilities, our neighbors who are unhoused, and our neighbors of marginalized genders, that they experience violence at the hands of the St. Albans Police Department. We believe them and we know our community can do better.
We have seen the expansion in the intensity of policing in the United States and St. Albans is no different. Social problems in communities experiencing poverty have been turned over for the police to handle, who are ill-equipped to deal with such challenges.
Instead of relying on the police, consider these scenarios instead:
- You are experiencing intimate partner violence. You text a number and a trauma-informed crisis intervention specialist meets you in a safe place. An hour later, you are working together to make a plan to keep you safe for the long term.
- Someone is selling drugs to youth that are overdosing. Everyone involved is immediately connected to a substance use service that intervenes in harmful drug interactions. Youth are supported in healthy outcomes thanks to robustly funded youth services and the seller accepts accountability with the support of the Restorative Justice Center (which is also robustly funded!)
- You are experiencing a mental health crisis. You are afraid and call 311. A first responder trained in mental health comes to your door. An hour later, you are in a safe place having given your consent with detailed plans for follow up care.
We call for a reallocation of the police funds and we demand our local government to develop non-police solutions to these social problems. We ask that you divert money away from the SAPD to invest in building up our communities so we don’t need to rely on violent, abusive policing. The safer St. Albans we imagine and believe in invests in the community through food security, employment, healthcare, publicly funded housing, trauma services, more counselors, more after-school programs, more restorative justice programs.
In order to fully understand how our Police Department functions and to increase transparency, we hereby request that the City Council provide a response to the concerns listed below:
- We request full disclosure of policing data.
- We request your support in seeking a response from the SAPD to the following FOIA request: Pursuant to the Vermont Public Records Act, We hereby request the following records:
- The roster of all current SAPD officers. For each officer, please be sure to include at least the following fields: name, rank, badge number, date of hire, race, gender, salary, date or year of birth, Primary unit assignment or job title (such as “patrol,” “motorcycle,” “street crimes,” etc.)
- All traffic stops, and arrests made by the SAPD between the years 2015-2020. For incident, please be sure to include at least the following fields for civilians: age, race, gender and the name of the investigating or arresting officer.
- Why is the data required by the Fair Impartial Policing Policy not accessible? This is public information that should be posted at least yearly and be publicly available on the city website. We should not have to ask and then wait months for this information or receive incomplete data. We request that you put pressure on the SAPD to respond to the FOIA request with all data requested and then do the work to make this data easily accessible immediately.
We request a response to these questions and concerns by the next city council meeting on July 13, 2020, if not before.
With respect and love for this community,
Neighbors for a Safer St. Albans
Marianne Hunkin, Ward 5
Casey Robert, Ward 5
Sarah Pearl, Ward 5
Sarah Auer, Ward 5
Reier Erickson, Ward 5
Angie Sturm, Ward 4
Tanner McCuin, Ward 1
Katie McCuin, Ward 1
Kate Larose, Ward 6
Beebe Potter, Ward 4
Deborah Thayer, Ward 2
Cc: Derek Brouwer, Seven Days
Michelle Monroe, St. Albans Messenger