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Moretown Select Board discusses law enforcement

01/08/2009

By Kara Herlihy

{mosimage} Lieutenant Paul White of the Vermont State Police Middlesex barracks discussed the future of state police coverage with members of the Moretown Select Board at their January 5 meeting. The discussion followed several meetings with Town Constable Ray Munn regarding snowmobile and ATV traffic on Jones Brook Road.

White explained that there is a significant reduction in troopers due to reassignment and an increased demand for specialty training for new positions; as a result, vacancies are created and fewer troopers end up patrolling roads.

CONSTANT BATTLE

"As fast as we get them, they transfer," White said, adding, "It is a constant battle." Recruiting officers for service is difficult, he said, and the creation of specialized jobs continues to draw the troopers off the road.

White indicated that the reduction in coverage is "manageable on a local level" while it remains a significant statewide struggle. He said that although he'd "like to see a third shift" (2 to 7 a.m.), it's unlikely for the undermanned organization.

LOCAL POLICING

When queried about the specific incidents on Jones Brook Road in Moretown, including unregistered mud vehicles, snowmobile and ATV traffic on legal trails, and the fatality that occurred in July, White said he's been in contact with Munn and considers local constables and sheriffs a "huge help" for local policing.

He continued, "We don't have the time to proactively pursue ATV and snow machine riders." White said if someone were to call, an officer would be sent if they were in the area and able to respond; otherwise, coverage will remain limited.

JUSTIFY YOUR REQUESTS

"You have to justify your requests," White said, in regard to reporting incidents. The incident must have a specific pattern wherein the same offenders are returning on certain days or times.

Karen Horn, who serves as vice chair on the state law enforcement advisory board, said the Legislature will received suggestions following a mandated study on law enforcement in Vermont, which includes sheriffs and constables.

SOMETHING HAS TO BE DONE

White said the cuts expected will not be trooper coverage, rather cuts to administrative staff, limited civilian support staff required to file police reports among other administrative duties.

White said he disliked the term "held harmless" because, without the civilian support staff, troopers are forced to spend more time handling administrative tasks than patrolling the roads and responding to incidents.

"Something has to be done," White added. "It will be interesting to see what the Legislature says in the coming weeks," he continued.

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