Daily Archives: November 15, 2014

The most pertinent questions about the Colchester cop

I sense the fine handiwork of the WPTZ graphics department.

I sense the fine handiwork of the WPTZ graphics department.

Every time I read about the case of Tyler Kinney, the Colchester officer who faces federal drug and gun charges, the same thing keeps coming to mind.

How in the blue hell did this go on so long?

Here’s a guy who was on the force for twelve years, and occupied one of its most sensitive positions — keeper of the evidence locker — for two and a half years. He was stealing stuff out of the locker, he had a “heroin addiction for an extended period of time,” and he was sharing his swag with a career criminal with a rap sheet as long as your arm and two felony convictions.

On top of all that, Kinney’s addiction and malfeasance came to light accidentally, after an unrelated search of the career criminal’s home. Absent that coincidence, Kinney might have gone on stealing stuff and destroying God knows how many prosecutions that depended on secure evidence storage.

News coverage of the case, so far, has focused on Kinney himself. But what of the institutional framework around him?

The overarching question breaks down into two parts.

1. What kind of internal oversight does the Colchester police have on its evidence locker and the sole keeper thereof?

2. What is the department’s drug testing policy for its officers? Does it have any? How often does it conduct tests? What drugs does it test for?

the_whizzinator_83385And how are the tests conducted? Is the officer monitored while, ahem, providing a sample? Or is there opportunity to game the test via the Whizzinator route?

The Colchester Police Department should answer these questions in detail. Necessary reforms must be enacted. If internal policies were not followed, those responsible should answer for their inactions.

Lest we lay all of this at the feet of Colchester Police Chief Jennifer Morrison, allow me to note that she’s only been there for a little over a year. The previous Chief, Charles Kirker, who had been chief for the previous 34 years, needs to give some answers too. Especially in light of this sentence from a softball Burlington Free Press interview on the occasion of his retirement:

My philosophy has always been to delegate to subordinates because you allow them to grow.

Yeah, nothing could possibly go wrong with that.

Beyond Colchester, the same questions should be put to the Department of Public Safety. What are the standards for the State Police? Are there standards that local police agencies must meet?

If not, why not?

If a drug-addicted officer can occupy a critical position of trust for two and a half years, only to be caught by accident, then either there was a complete breakdown in the Colchester police, or there are systemic shortcomings that must be addressed.

That’s all. I’ll hand this over to the watchdogs of the media.

A question for Mahatma the All-Knowing

Dear Mr. Milne,

You have floated the notion that the Legislature ought to drop its traditional practice of electing the top vote-getter in gubernatorial elections in which no candidate won a majority. Instead, you say, lawmakers should act like an Electoral College, casting their votes based on which candidate won their district.

Okay, a completely novel idea that flies in the face of precedent. But it does raise a question.

If a lawmaker represents a district where a single candidate won a majority of votes, then it’s clear that you’d want the lawmaker to reflect the constituency.


What about a district in which no gubernatorial candidate won a majority? Where the top finisher earned a plurality? What should that lawmaker do?

Example: in Washington County, you finished barely ahead of Governor Shumlin. If you only earned a plurality in the county, why should you be entitled to claim the votes of all three state senators?

Your underlying argument is that a plurality does not provide a clear mandate. Stands to reason, then, that a plurality edge in a given county does not constitute a mandate for its senators. Right?

What, then, do those senators do?

If you say “Vote for the plurality winner,” then you are a hypocrite.

The other two options are, (1) those lawmakers should be free to vote their conscience, on whatever grounds they make their decisions, or (2) they should try to cobble together an IRV-style “ideological majority” from their county’s returns and vote for the candidate who earned their imaginary majority.

What we’ve done here is opened a big ol’ can of worms. And I think this is one reason why past lawmakers hewed to the precedent of electing the top vote-getter regardless of party affiliation. (And why, on those rare and ancient occasions they diverged from precedent, there was always something funny about it.)

Now, you being you, I don’t expect a straight answer, just more of your argument-of-convenience, throw-stuff-against-the-wall style of reasoning.

But I thought I’d ask.


John Walters