‘Cops investigating cops’

Williston Police Chief Patrick Foley’s first alternative to an in-house review of citizen complaints against police officers would be to turn to the Vermont State Police, he said in an interview Tuesday.

Under current practice, citizen complaints against officers are investigated by retired police officers who offer private investigation services. Foley is planning to train his top lieutenant, Josh Moore, to handle complaint investigations in-house to determine whether an officer acted criminally or against police policies.

Foley said he understands concerns complainants might have about “cops investigating cops,” but said changing the system will require leadership from the Department of Public Safety or state lawmakers — or directives from mayors or town administrators.

“It’s a valid concern, but is it that big of an issue here in Vermont? I can’t say yes or no,” said Foley. “It’s got to be a combined effort to look at what our alternatives are.”

Foley said the Attorney General’s office would not have a role in an investigation of officer conduct, but that the State’s Attorney or the Vermont Human Rights Commission may be able to step in if called upon. 

For now, though, decisions about officer wrongdoing will continue to fall to police leaders. 

“I’ve done a lot of internal investigations and I have a good track record,” Foley said. “I rely on my expertise … If (an officer) violates our rules, policies or the law, then they have to face the consequences.”

— Jason Starr