The Vermont State Police disseminate press releases for significant criminal or public safety incidents and arrests, but it is not intended to document every public contact or response to a call-for-service. If you have a question regarding an incident or case, please contact your local state police barracks or the public information officer. Please note press releases are available on this blog for 30 days following their public release. Please contact the public information officer if you need access to one that is older.

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April 17, 2018

Vermont State Police announce updates to use-of-force procedures

45 State Drive
Waterbury, VT 05671

April 17, 2018
Vermont state police announce updates to use of force procedures
MONTPELIER, Vermont — In January, Vermont State Police Director Col. Matthew T. Birmingham, after consultation with Commissioner of Public Safety Thomas D. Anderson and with his full support, made a promise to Vermonters to conduct a thorough review of policies and procedures related to critical incidents, including officer-involved shootings.
Last week, the law-enforcement agency fulfilled the first part of that promise by releasing a report with detailed plans to change the way the state police handle the aftermath of critical incidents, including with regard to the amount of leave time for troopers, return-to-duty protocol and mental health of VSP members.
Today the state police is fulfilling the second part of that promise: to evaluate and make recommendations regarding uses of force, with the goal of making specific updates to the response and operational management of high-risk critical incidents in Vermont. This effort by the state police is ongoing but results today in the immediate adoption of new policies and procedures.
The review was conducted by a nationally recognized expert in the use of force by law enforcement, Steve Ijames. The Vermont State Police have asked Mr. Ijames to serve as an ongoing consultant on the management of critical incidents.
During the week of April 9, 2018, Mr. Ijames held initial meetings with senior VSP command staff. Below is a list of action items the state police will immediately implement based on recommendations from Mr. Ijames. As with all law-enforcement training and operations, these action items are an important first step, but the work surrounding use-of-force incidents is continuing. Tactics and technology in this discipline are always evolving and improving.  
These action items will help to improve our response to critical incidents involving the use of force and provide members of the Vermont State Police with additional policies, training and systems to assist us in resolving use-of-force incidents safely. Mr. Ijames will continue to consult with the state police on these matters indefinitely. 
The Vermont State Police response to the recommendations are as follows:
·        The Vermont State Police will research, train and acquire additional less-lethal capabilities for the Tactical Services Unit (TSU). This includes the expansion of less-lethal weapon systems such as plastic ammunition, beanbag projectiles, long range chemical munitions, percussion munitions and others. 
·        Mr. Ijames will conduct a one-day training session with all TSU members on topics such as evolving tactical team techniques, less-lethal applications and barricaded subjects.
·        The state police will research, train on and acquire additional less-lethal capabilities for all Field Force members. 
·        VSP will conduct Regional In-Service Training (RIST) across the state for all members in de-escalation and force mitigation. 
·        VSP will outfit all members of TSU with body-worn cameras.
·        VSP will install a mobile camera on the TSU armored vehicle (Bearcat).
·        VSP will continue to pursue body-worn cameras for all Field Force members. 
·        VSP will review current use-of-force policies and make changes as necessary. 
"These updated policies and procedures are an important part of the Vermont State Police's commitment to all Vermonters to continually learn and strive to be better at what we do," Col. Birmingham said.
Commissioner Anderson has reviewed and approved adopting the recommendations.
About Steve Ijames
The Vermont State Police's consultant, Steve Ijames, has been a police officer since 1979 and retired as an assistant chief with the Springfield, Missouri, Police Department. Since that time, he has served as chief of police in Republic and Ozark, Missouri. Ijames has a bachelor's degree in criminal justice, a master's degree in public administration and is a graduate of the 186th FBI National Academy.
Mr. Ijames has served in, supervised and commanded a variety of assignments including uniformed patrol, criminal investigations, undercover narcotics and Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT). 
Mr. Ijames was an original member of the National Tactical Officers Association (NTOA) board of directors, and he created the less-lethal force (impact projectiles, chemical munitions and noise flash diversionary devices) instructor/trainer programs for the NTOA and the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP). Mr. Ijames is the author of the IACP National Policy Center model policies involving those technologies as well as hostage situations, barricaded subjects, TASER, and the association's position papers on SWAT and patrol rifles. He also is the IACP subject matter expert on use of force, and Special Weapons and Tactics. 
Mr. Ijames has applied resistance control measures in police operations ranging from empty hand control to deadly firearm force. He has also participated in, supervised or commanded the service of approximately 2,500 search warrant entries, the resolution of about 150 barricaded suspect situations, and the freeing of hostages in seven cases — two involving long rifle deployment and three involving crisis/rescue entry.     
Mr. Ijames has provided less-lethal force, tactical/patrol command and counterterrorism training on behalf of the IACP and the U.S. Department of State across North America and in 33 countries including Bosnia, East Timor, El Salvador, Haiti, Indonesia, Pakistan, Somalia, Tanzania and Yemen.
Mr. Ijames has served on a variety of high-profile critical incident and investigative police commissions, has reviewed some 3,000 police use-of-force cases for agencies such as the Los Angeles, Chicago, Phoenix and Philadelphia police departments, and he provides policy, training and litigation consulting in tactical, resistance control, special operations and agency structure related areas. He most recently served as the police practices/use-of-force subject matter expert in Ferguson, Missouri.  

April 12, 2018

State police releases critical incident report and recommendations

April 12, 2018
Adam Silverman, public information officer
WATERBURY, Vermont -- The Vermont State Police has completed its review of policies and procedures related to critical incidents, such as officer-involved shootings, and issued a report and recommendations that include a number of policy changes.
At the direction of Col. Matthew Birmingham, director of the state police, the Critical Incident Administrative Review Committee began its policy evaluation on January 31, 2018. The committee was comprised of six members, including leaders of the Vermont State Police, the Vermont Troopers Association, human resources and the department clinician.
A critical incident involves an unusually challenging event that has the potential to create significant distress and can overwhelm an individual's usual coping mechanisms.  An incident of this nature can occur at any time. These incidents include not only the use of lethal force but also cases involving the untimely death of a child, a homicide, a fatal motor vehicle crash, the exploitation of a child, or a sexual or physical assault.
Among the committee's recommendations:
  • Increase the number of paid administrative leave days for a Vermont State Police member involved in an incident requiring the use of lethal force that results in injury or death. The committee recommends a minimum of five days of paid administrative leave, rising from three days.
  • Change the process by which a member returns to duty. Instead of returning to normal duty at the conclusion of three days of paid administrative leave, members now would return to administrative duty status following the five-day paid-leave period. Under administrative duty status, an individual will report to the office and perform non-law-enforcement functions as dictated by commanders, such as processing evidence, writing reports and being involved in special projects such as school safety assessments. This paid duty status, like administrative leave following an incident, is a routine procedure and not a disciplinary action. The member will remain on administrative duty until completion of an incident review by the Attorney General's Office and the appropriate county's State's Attorney's Office.
  • Establish a protocol to review membership on special teams for department members involved within two years in multiple shooting incidents or applications of force that result in a subject's serious injury or death. The recommendation applies to all special teams but is most applicable to the Tactical Services Unit. The committee noted that it had concerns with current practices that could place members in a position to employ lethal force within a short time frame of a previous incident and/or while legal review of a previous incident was ongoing.
  • Comprehensively address the mental health and wellness needs of members involved in a critical incident. The report and recommendations include guidelines set forth in "Officer Involved Shootings: A Guide for Law Enforcement Leaders," a 2016 publication by the International Association of Chiefs of Police. Many of these guidelines already are current practice for the Vermont State Police. The committee recommends continuing current practice while extending contact with members beyond the first month following a critical incident, including a monthly check-in with the member by a clinician for six months.
  • Improve procedures regarding the tracking and reporting of critical incidents by the Members Assistance Team.
"This is a first step in a very important process of reviewing our policies and procedures as they relate to critical incidents," Col. Birmingham said. "The report and recommendations allow us to protect the process for everyone involved, from the public to members of the state police. It ensures that our members' health and well-being is taken care of, while protecting public safety."
Birmingham added: "This report is a significant part of our ongoing evaluation of policies and procedures to improve how we manage critical incidents for the people of Vermont."
WHAT'S NEXT: Commissioner of Public Safety Thomas Anderson and Col. Birmingham have accepted the report, and the recommendations will be adopted in full. The Vermont State Police will develop new policies and change current policies as needed to match the report's recommendations.
At the same time, the state police remains committed to continually learning more and making improvements. Steve Ijames, a nationally recognized expert in the use of force by law enforcement, has spent time with Vermont State Police leadership and other personnel this week to make additional recommendations. 
The members of the Critical Incident Administrative Review Committee are:
  • Capt. James Whitcomb, staff operations commander.
  • Lt. David Petersen, professional standards commander.
  • Sarah Adams, human resources director.
  • Michael O'Neil, Vermont Troopers Association president. 
  • Lori Gurney, VSP department clinician.
  • Maj. Ingrid Jonas, Support Services Division commander. 

The full report is available from Vermont State Police headquarters.  

Please contact PIO Adam Silverman to arrange an interview with Maj. Jonas for further information.