By Gene Bifano
The law enforcement constables today aren’t the constables of yore. They are not someone elected by the town who puts on a badge to enforce the law without training or education in law enforcement. Today’s law enforcement constables are certified, well educated and trained in law enforcement.
Towns can have non-law-enforcement constables who do not require any training. But they have very little legal authority and do not have law enforcement authority such as arresting someone or even stopping someone for suspicious activity.
The difference between law enforcement constables and police or sheriffs is that there is no department, no police chief or sheriff nor is there the overhead that is required when you have a police or sheriff’s department.
There are two police officers/constables in Warren who are certified by Vermont’s Criminal Justice Training Council (VCJTC) as police officers – not constables – just like all other Vermont law enforcement officers.
Police officers/constables’ initial education is a minimum of about 220 hours of certified training – all trainers and training must be approved by VCJTC. They are educated on the Constitution, civil rights, state statutes, the use of force, the legal tenets of arrest and search warrants, crime scene investigation, fingerprinting, etc. All must pass the state firearm qualification.
As part of certification they must undergo over 100 hours training in the field with a certified training officer and have to pass a mandatory checklist. This checklist consists of five pages, which includes critical situations: high-risk traffic stop, arresting a high-risk individual. One of Warren’s police officers/constables participated in a DEA drug bust during his initial training.
The constable must have at least 35 hours of mandatory education annually. The training consists of but is not limited to responding to and managing a domestic violence incidence, dealing with people in mental crises, bias-free policing, use of force, accident investigation and annual firearm qualification.
Warren’s two police officers/constables combined have participated in over 60 hours of active shooter education and training with Vermont’s tactical unit and the FBI. We are expected to and will respond to those situations should they occur, with or without Vermont State Police (VSP).
The Warren police officers on average do about 65 hours of certified training each, annually.
So what does all the crap mean? Warren’s police officers/constables are trained professionals that townspeople, businesses and visitors can rely on to come to their aid in difficult situations, while waiting for VSP. We love our troopers and sheriffs, but if they are 20 to 40 minutes away when you need them that may not be the best for you.
One of the more important roles they provide is aiding emergency medical services. There are many situations where people may be injured or worse and EMS cannot respond because there are dangerous or potentially dangerous circumstances such as domestic violence, attempted suicide, mental issues, assaults, a weapon is involved, to list a few.
The police officers/constables respond to mitigate the situation so EMS can do their job and stabilize the situation for VSP. Both police officers/constables are trained in first aid and can render aid waiting for the ambulance if safe to do so. One is an advanced EMT that has attended an advanced combat trauma course and can treat injuries during an active situation without waiting for a secure scene.
So I ask this question: Where else can you get professional police officers to be on call 24-7 for roughly $5,000/year including required insurance and some equipment? The Valley towns, rightly so, pay a stipend to volunteer firefighters for training and responding to incidents. The towns cover liability and workers’ compensation as well as fairly expensive equipment and personalized “turnout” gear.
Some of the calls the Warren police officers/constables have responded to as first responders include domestic disputes, violent mental health crises, stabbings, suicides and attempted suicides, possible child abuse, noise at night, neighbor/tenant disputes, possible break-ins, burglar alarms, 911 hang-ups, motor vehicle accidents, backing up troopers while waiting for other troopers and more.
Some of the responses were in Fayston and Waitsfield to the chagrin of some Warren Select Board members. VSP requested the Warren police/constables response due to time being of the essence, not unlike fire department or EMS mutual aide. Also note, a number of responses were resolved without VSP intervention.
Bifano lives in Warren where he is one of the town’s police officers/constables.