One of the homey little touches in my local newspaper, the Times Argus, is the regular listing from the police blotter. This is labeled “a sampler” from the log; I can’t say how they choose what they print. I’d assume it’s somewhat representative.
Well, if it is, then Montpelier could probably get by with a couple fewer cops. The latest Police Log largely contains calls that didn’t require an armed response, and every log is simliar in content. Let’s run it down, shall we?
Feb. 1: On Northfield Street, a report of someone having seizures who was using alcohol and Valium was unfounded.
Well, ehh. Better handled by a trained social worker. Which is one of the ideas offered by the “Defund the Police” movement: Fewer cops and more social worker/counselor types.
A vehicle broke down on Main Street.
I’d suggest calling Bob’s Sunoco. Very prompt towing service. Or AAA if you’re a member.
Someone from Oregon called to report their Vermont phone number was prank called. They were told to contact their local police.
Feb. 2: A trash can was blocking a sidewalk plow on Pearl Street.
Get out of the truck and move the damn thing.
After the jump: The carnage continues.
Property was lost on Main Street.
Well, maybe if it was stolen.
Cash was found on the sidewalk on Main Street.
I guess the MPD operates a lost and found?
A suspicious package was reported on Dover Road.
Maybe. Probably. Better safe than sorry.
Feb. 3 Someone was outside a residence on School Street.
I don’t want to jump to conclusions. If this was reported by a vulnerable person living alone, or a person who had a regular problem with a stalker, yes, send the police. Otherwise, ehh.
Items were stolen from a building on Main Street.
Nope. Not unless the thief is still on site. Otherwise, you’re sending a couple of armed cops to do a bit of stenography.
A water leak was reported on First Avenue.
This is a job for… the Water and Sewer Department! (Unless it’s a real gusher.)
Feb. 4: Someone was driving erratically on Main Street.
Better send a cop.
A piece of furniture was stolen off of a front porch on Liberty Street.
More stenography. Besides, it’s really their fault for putting it on the porch.
Someone was in the road causing a traffic hazard on Berlin Street.
I’d say send a cop. Might be a crash by the time the police arrive.
Feb. 5: A neighbor was yelling on Hebert Road.
No, not at all.
On Hebert Road, an incident of child abuse was reported.
Again, more social worker than law enforcement.
There was a suspicious vehicle on Hebert Road.
Need a little more information here, but I doubt it’s really police work.
Feb. 6: A dog was running loose on Elm Street.
Good heavens. No.
On Gallison Hill Road, a vehicle was stuck.
Bob’s Sunoco, 24-hour service.
A water leak was reported on Cummings Street.
Again with the pipes? Not a case for the police unless people are in danger of drowning.
On Foster Street, a utility line was hanging low.
I can see this. If the line is so low it might be hit by a passing vehicle, then yes, the police need to be on hand to divert traffic.
That’s a total of 20 police calls over a six-day period. By my fairly generous count, three of them merited a police response. Three others might have. The other 14? Nope.
Now, there are real logistical problems with shrinking a police department the size of Montpelier’s. You have to have enough officers to be on duty 24/7. You need higher-ranking police who handle serious crimes and/or handle management duties. The Montpelier PD has 17 sworn officers plus another 10 staffers. Not much fat there.
But a lot of calls that we consider police business really aren’t. Many could be better handled by someone trained for the purpose of dealing with troubled people, like a social worker. (Or an on-call plumber for those pesky water leaks.) Police departments are a huge drain on municipal budgets. If we trimmed police funding and hired skilled intervenors, the result would be better service and public safety for the same price.
I’m not a professional administrator and I don’t play one on TV. There may be good arguments for not doing this. But to me, it looks like resting on traditional practice instead of giving it a fresh look.
And hey look, the city is making an effort on this front. From the FY2021 budget book:
This budget adds a share of a potential Social Worker. This position would be housed in Washington County Mental Health Services, shared with the City of Barre and partially funded with grant money.
Thinking outside the box. I like. More, please.