Vermont Public is independent, community-supported media, serving Vermont with trusted, relevant and essential information. We share stories that bring people together, from every corner of our region. New to Vermont Public? Start here.

© 2024 Vermont Public | 365 Troy Ave. Colchester, VT 05446

Public Files:

For assistance accessing our public files, please contact or call 802-655-9451.
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Explore our coverage of government and politics.

Local Leader Believes Rutland Police Commission Is Too Complacent

Caleb Kenna
Former Rutland City Police Officer Andrew Todd filed a wrongful termination and hostile workplace lawsuit and alleged two fellow officers he alleged were engaged in racial profiling.

Tension between the Rutland City board of Aldermen and the City’s Police Commission is not new.  But a 2012 internal affairs investigation into alleged racial profiling and officer misconduct by two former Rutland city police officers have caused some city leaders to question the role of Rutland’s Police Commission.

According to Rutland City’s Charter, the five-member Police Commission is responsible for overseeing the police department and hiring and firing the chief. 

The commission was created by city officials in Rutland in the late 1980s to ensure that the police chief was not beholden to a single individual — for example, a mayor. At the time it was seen as a way to keep politics out of policing.

But Sharon Davis, a long time member of the Rutland City board of Aldermen, thinks the role of the commission has not been fulfilled in recent years.

“The Police Commission was not established to be a 'yes' board,” she says." The Police Commission was established to look over the chief’s shoulder and make sure that things are being run the way the public expects it to be. That’s not happening,” says Davis.

“I don’t feel it’s happening, and it irritates me," she says.

VPR's Nina Keck joins Vermont Edition to talk about the civil suit being filed against the city by former Rutland Police officer Andrew Todd.

Davis believes the commission has been too complacent. For instance, she cites a pornography scandal at the police department five years ago. A city officer was being investigated by the state police for having pornography on his police-issued laptop.

"The Police Commission was established to look over the chief's shoulder and make sure that things are being run the way the public expects it to be... I don’t feel it's happening and it irritates me." - Sharon Davis, Rutland City Board of Aldermen

The city’s police chief at the time, Anthony Bossi, came under fire for not informing the Police Commission about the investigation. Bossi was also harshly criticized for not running his own internal review.

Davis says the pornography incident and other departmental problems led the Board of Aldermen to hold a unanimous no confidence vote in the chief.

Despite that, the police commission voted to keep him on the job.

Rutland has a different police chief now and members of the Police Commission have also changed. But Davis says the panel is still not being as proactive as she’d like.

She says she was shocked to find out that the Chairman of the Commission had not read a 2012 internal affairs report looking into allegations of racial profiling and other misconduct by Rutland City Police officers.

The investigation, which was completed by Thomas Tremblay, a former Vermont Public Safety Commissioner and Burlington Police Chief, focused on two officers — both of whom no longer work for the city. When the report came out in 2012, it was not released to the public. 

A redacted version of it was only recently made public as part of a civil suit being filed against the city by another former officer, Andrew Todd

While the report found no criminal intent, Tremblay states that information uncovered in the report exposed the Rutland Police Department and the city to significant liability.

Credit Caleb Kenna / VPR
New details that have emerged in the case of former officer Andrew Todd have been "deeply disturbing" to city officials.

Davis says the entire commission should have made these findings its business much sooner.

“My concern is with the police commission at this time. What is their role? What are they doing?  And how, moving forward, are they going to have a better handle on these types of things?” asks Davis. 

“It concerns me. I can’t deal with the day-to-day because by charter, the Police Commission is charged with that and the Board of Aldermen don’t always get all the information.”

Larry Jensen, chairman of the Police Commission, says when the internal affairs report was issued three years ago, he was told by city officials he could not read it or share it with commission members. He says the city attorney at the time, Andrew Costello, in conjunction with union representatives, determined that internal affairs reports should remain confidential. Other city leaders confirmed this.

But Jensen says he was well briefed about the issues in the report by Jim Baker, who was the city’s police chief.

“At the time the Tremblay report was issued," says Jensen, "certainly, the Police Commission was made aware of what was in the report and it was my opinion and it remains my opinion that the issues raised were adequately and sufficiently dealt with by the chief of police.”

"The Police Commission was made aware of what was in the [2012] report and it was my opinion and it remains my opinion that the issues raised were adequately and sufficiently dealt with by the chief of police." - Larry Jensen, chairman of the Police Commission

William Notte, president of the Rutland City Board of Aldermen, stands behind the commission and says they deserve credit, along with Baker, for the job they’ve done in helping rebuild and restore trust in the city’s police department.

But with the city about to hire a new police chief, Notte says it’s important the commission learn from recent events.

“You want a Police Commission that has at the very least a doubtful relationship with the police chief. You want a Police Commission who is willing to be a fair partner to the police chief,” adds Notte. “But at the same time is verifying everything, because that’s the job they’re being entrusted to by the people of the city of Rutland.”

Notte says voters had a chance to change the city’s charter in 2011 to place members of the board of aldermen on the police commission and the measure was voted down.

This story was revised at 1:15pm 09/17 to clarify that Larry Jensen, Chairman of the Rutland City Police Commission, was told, not advised by city officials that he could not read an internal affairs report. We also corrected the first name of former Rutland City Attorney Andrew Costello.

One in five Vermonters is considered elderly. But what does being elderly even mean — and what do Vermonters need to know as they age? I’m looking into how aging in Vermont impacts living essentials such as jobs, health care and housing. And also how aging impacts the stuff of life: marriage, loss, dating and sex.
Latest Stories