By LISA RATHKE, Associated Press
MONTPELIER, Vt. (AP) — A Vermont town, at the urging of the state attorney general, is looking for an outside expert to review the police department’s practices following its handling of reports of racial harassment against the state’s only Black female lawmaker, who later resigned.
Attorney General T.J. Donovan had urged Bennington on Monday to have an outside review done of its police department’s policies and procedures, after the NAACP Vermont branch and the American Civil Liberties Union of Vermont jointly called for a review of local police involvement in the case, including whether evidence was withheld.
In this Oct. 3, 2018 file photo, Kiah Morris, a former Vermont state representative, discusses threats and harassment she’s faced, during an interview in Bennington, Vt. (AP Photo/Lisa Rathke, File)
“This action step will promote and maintain the public trust in the Bennington Police Department,” Donovan said.
Town Manager Stuart Hurd said he’s confident that there will be no “ill findings.”
“In life every time you take a hard look at what you do and how you do it there’s always some learning, some education to be had so we’ll move in that direction,” Hurd said.
Donovan’s office took over the investigation of online racial harassment against then-Rep. Kiah (KY’-uh) Morris in August, telling Vermont Public Radio that there was a “breakdown in
Bennington.” Donovan announced last month that Morris was the victim of racial harassment but no charges would be filed because of free speech protections and insufficient evidence.
Less than a month later, police arrested the man accused of harassing Morris, a self-described White nationalist, on a charge that he possessed large capacity gun magazines, which are now illegal in Vermont. Max Misch, 36, pleaded not guilty on Thursday.
“The Attorney General’s conclusions and public statements in this case have focused on the conduct of private citizens, while remaining silent on the actions and inactions of Bennington officials,” the NAACP and ACLU said in a joint statement, adding that the ACLU has a pending racial profiling lawsuit against the Bennington Police Department.