Trustees discuss expectations with BFPD

BELLOWS FALLS, Vt. – On Tuesday, Oct. 27, the Bellows Falls Trustees discussed updates  and their expectations with Chief David Bemis the Bellows Falls Police Department.

Municipal Manager Scott Pickup explained that the BFPD’s current digital radio was a state response to 9/11 and a planned standard throughout all Vermont State Police departments by 2022. Chief Bemis explained the benefit of the digital radio, which “is a state of the art system,” provided clear communication over longer distances. BFPD received one of the first in the state through a grant a few years ago. Bemis was unsure if the village would owe grant money if the system was discontinued, or if the village would have to purchase it again in the future. The cost when installed was over $100,000.

Bemis explained that other agencies could communicate along this system, and BFPD was able to use analog while communicating to those without digital capabilities. He said, “For transparency sake, you can’t listen to digital on a traditional scanner…[but] all transmissions are recorded.”

Wade Masure asked if the public could access the digital platform with a digital scanner and Bemis said yes.

Trustees discussed their list of expectations for BFPD, and all agreed on community policing and visibility. Masure suggested that at every meeting an officer could come introduce themselves.

McAuliffe commented that during the police chief search he was embarrassed that he did not know who Bemis was, learning later that he worked the night shift. McAuliffe said he wanted the community to understand the drug problem, the BFPD’s role, and for the police “to help us understand [how] to deal more effectively with this.” He agreed that “it’s not just a police problem.”

Jeff Dunbar thanked the BFPD and encouraged “more public outreach,” suggesting officers interact with businesses, landlords, schools, etc.

Masure said he wanted to see a policy for officers wearing safety vests outside their cruisers. Bemis agreed. “It’s the law – it’s just common sense.”

Stefan Golec said, “Visibility is key,” and officers could visit every street in the village in less than two hours. He was also concerned with the lack of motor vehicle violations.

Bemis assured the Trustees “We’re back out there stopping vehicles” after a lull during lockdown.

Village President Deborah Wright asked the BFPD to give residents an understanding when a report is filed; on what to expect and how long the process takes. Wright would like to see more foot patrols to “ensure that law abiding citizens see the availability of our policing staff.”

The Trustees will send Bemis their concerns in writing, and Pickup and Bemis plan on updating the policy manual. The Village Trustees meet on the first and third Tuesdays in the Lower Theater of the Bellows Falls Opera House at 6 p.m.

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