Study author recommends adding officers to Chester Police force

By Shawn Cunningham

In a presentation to the Chester Select Board on Wednesday, Aug. 21, Doug Hoyt, a former police chief of Montpelier, suggested that the Chester Police Department staff should grow by two officers, to six total.

Hoyt conducted a study of the police department under the auspices of the Vermont League of Cities and Towns and at the request of the Select Board.

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Click image to open the report

After beginning the meeting with an hourlong executive session, the board returned to consider the study of the Chester Police Department, which was to look at “the capacity of the police department to provide law enforcement services.” A complete list of recommendations begins on Page 25 of the report, which can be accessed by clicking on the image to the right.

The 35-page study, requested after last year’s budgeting process in which the department requested a fifth full-time officer, looked at crime statistics, infrastructure, budget and management to put forward 19 recommendations. Although not included in the recommendations, Hoyt suggested that in his opinion, the Chester Police Department needs not just a fifth but probably a sixth full-time officer, telling the select board, “That decision is yours, not mine. The goal is to make a success for the Select Board, the town manager and the police department.”

While noting that Chester’s crime rate is below the average for towns in Windsor County, including several that do not have police departments and rely on State Police for services, Hoyt said that two extra officers would be helpful in scheduling, filling in for sick or vacationing officers and in providing more services to the community.

While Select Board members Tom Bock and Bill Lindsay said that they liked the report, they joined the rest of the board in complaining that the statistics used in it were anywhere from difficult to read to completely meaningless.

Responding to the question of who is responsible for police policies and procedures, Select Board chair John DeBenedetti pointed out that the town manager is the de facto “police commissioner,” saying that it is “ now for (town manager) David  (Pisha) to prioritize (the recommendations) and move on.”

“The Select Board has no sign-off on police department policy,” said DeBenedetti. Police Chief Rick Cloud showed a binder of policies and spoke about seminars departments attend where they get these policies.

Abby Friedman of the Vermont League of Cities and Towns explained that PACIF (the insurer of Vermont municipalities) has written models based on insurance risk that many police departments have adopted, but they don’t have to.

“I just want David to manage. If it belongs to us, he’ll bring it to us,” said board member Derek Suursoo, noting that the report has “generated angst all over the place.” Suursoo urged the board to “stay out of the game and let David do his job.”

DeBenedetti asked to see a plan for implementing the recommendations at the next meeting.

Town solar farm, business seminars

  • In an unusual move, the Chester Select Board began its Aug. 21 meeting with an executive session to discuss contract issues regarding the proposed solar farm on town land on Route 103 near Trebo Road. The contract in question was proposed by Green Lantern – one of several firms in the running to build and operate the installation. Before entering the hour long executive session, DeBenedetti pointed out that no selection has been made and that the Green Lantern contract is being reviewed because that group has gone the furthest in the process. DeBenedetti noted that no action was taken.
  • In other matters, the board postponed the consideration of an entertainment permit for the Pizza Stone restaurant to the Sept. 4 meeting to do some research.
  • DeBenedetti also noted the upcoming small business technology seminars, which start tomorrow, Aug. 29. He also mentioned that there is a vacancy for a lister – a paid, part time job and there are open positions on the Planning Commission and the Transportation Advisory Committee. Anyone interested in these should contact Town Hall at 875-2174.
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