Tag Archives: Department of Public Safety

Mike Smith, multiplatform provocateur

Vermont’s number-one walking, talking conflict of interest, Mike Smith, has a bee in his bonnet.

Smith, for anyone living in a spider hole, is host of Not The Mark Johnson Show on WDEV, political columnist for the Times Argus and Rutland Herald, and political analyst for WCAX-TV and for the Charlie & Ernie Show on WVMT Radio. Man, that’s enough hats to gag a milliner.

Anyway, Smith is using his multiple platforms to capitalize on a recent tragedy: the death of state trooper Kyle Young during a training exercise. On his radio show and in his column, he is raising questions about possible wrongdoing by state officials. He is also, I hear, using his connections to prod WCAX into covering the “story.”

What caused Trooper Young’s core body temperature to rise to such a dangerous level? Was the training regime too arduous for the temperature conditions? Or was there some other medical reason that went undiscovered by State Police supervisors and medical staff until it was too late?

Well, of course questions need to be answered. But there is absolutely no indication that anyone did anything wrong. This was a standard, if rigorous, training; the weather was warm, but not unusually so. And yet, Smith is calling for an independent investigation, and is avidly sowing the seeds of doubt about the state’s handling of the case.

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I think they call this “inexpedient to legislate”

In the words of Charlie Pierce, Here’s Some Stupid For Lunch. VTDigger: 

The Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday tabled a bill that would increase the scope of the state’s criminal DNA collection because of a backlog in processing existing samples.

The decision came after Dr. Trisha Conti, director of the Vermont Forensics Laboratory, told lawmakers that the lab has approximately 2,500 samples waiting to be processed and added to the state database.

Yeah, well, hmm. It begs the question, why didn’t anyone check with the Lab before proposing the expansion?

It doesn’t speak well of our government’s internal communication skills, does it?

A law passed in 2008 mandates DNA testing for every convicted felon in Vermont; the proposed bill would have included anyone convicted of a misdemeanor that could have led to jail time. That would have generated several thousand more DNA samples to the workload.

The backlog came about because the state lab has only one analyst doing the work, and she’s been on maternity leave. And if you think that’s funny, get a load of this:

At the time the [2008] law passed, funding was designated for two chemist positions. A chemist already employed by the lab, whose federally funded position was set to expire, filled one position. The other position was not filled.

Hahahaha. So the legislature expanded DNA testing and budgeted money for the necessary staff, and the administration never spent it. Well, two administrations: Douglas and Shumlin. Yeah, funny.

Paco Aumand, deputy commissioner of the Department of Public Safety, added that they’ve had a hard time “finding qualified people to take these scientific jobs at compensation that the state of Vermont is paying.”

So we pass a law to protect ourselves from repeat offenders, and then we don’t come up with the money to actually follow through. Wonderful.

Oh, and in case you even had to ask: Governor Shumlin’s 2016 budget doesn’t include funding for a second lab tech. Of course it doesn’t.

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.