Tag Archives: Vermont State Police

If it didn’t happen in the Free Press, it didn’t happen

The Burlington Free Press takes tremendous pride in its scoops. Front-page placement, social media bragging. It’ll also follow up endlessly, whether fresh developments warrant it or not. And sometimes the “scoops” aren’t worth the paper they’re (at least for now) printed on.

Its pride in the Liquor Control Commission overtime affair is justified. Mike Donoghue discovered an abuse of the system and aired it out. One result: the amazingly well-timed retirement of Commissioner Michael Hogan.

Great. Good work. But I find it awfully curious that while the Free Press has devoted lots and lots of space to the LCC, it has published exactly one story — count it, one — about Attorney General Bill Sorrell’s refusal to investigate himself for possible campaign finance violations.

And that one story was an Associated Press production. No staff time whatsoever, as far as I can tell.

The only explanation I can think of: the story originated in Seven Days. The Free Press can’t claim credit; it’d just be playing catch-up.

If that’s not enough to get your Spidey Sense tingling, how about the fact that the Free Press has published not a word about State Police Corporal Jon Graham’s Facebook posts? The story first broke Friday night on WCAX, and has been widely re-reported elsewhere. But not in the Free Press (or on FreePressMedia).

Stories like these are usually catnip for the Free Press: allegations of official misconduct, of a kind that’s sure to generate pageviews and controversy.

Sorrell is supposedly testifying before a Senate committee this afternoon. I expect the Free Press will be there, and will report on the story — because now, it’ll have a fresh hook to hang the story on, and won’t have to credit Paul Heintz for the scoop.

Maybe I’m being too harsh. But the Free Press’ track record informs my cynicism. And for the life of me, I can think of no other explanation for Our Former Newspaper Of Record almost completely ignoring two significant stories in state government.

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Our ever-vigilant keepers of the public order

Oh boy, a cop scandal of our very own. And thankfully, it doesn’t involve shooting someone dead on little or no pretext. Just a digital cornucopia of hate speech from one of Vermont’s Finest.

The Vermont State Police is investigating one of its own for material that the trooper posted to social media.

One of the latest Facebook posts from Cpl. Jon Graham’s personal page is an article from Right Wing News. A photo of a smashed Virgin Mary Statue. And a comment from the trooper reading, “and these animals will kill you if you speak badly of Mohammed….tolerance.”

…The posts go back years, seemingly undetected by state police. Some allegedly penning his thoughts like one from 2014, “was just behind a Prius with a Bernie Sanders 2016 sticker…oh how I wanted to spin her vehicle out.”

Others make comments about actual crimes, “Officer involved shooting in Windsor tonight…officer okay…scumbag in hospital…as it should be.”

More specifics in a moment. First, though, a couple of notes that cut to the heart of the problem.

— Graham has been a state trooper for 15 years.

— He’s been posting hateful, racist, sexist stuff on Facebook for years. And his bosses never noticed?
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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.

Vile overreaction at Goddard College

Well, you knew that inviting Mumia Abu Jamal to speak would prompt a backlash. Especially when the professional ragemongers at Fox News got hold of it. (Seriously, Rupert Murdoch should make a donation to Goddard for giving his minions some raw meat to chew on.)

And, as we might have guessed, the reaction is thoroughly despicable. Goddard staff are getting obscenely violent emails and voice mails. My old colleague John Odum has written it up at his new outpost, POVt.net, and I suggest you check it out. I’ll give you just a sample here, and apologies for the language. This is not the worst one, by the way.

“Hey, if I rape one of your students and slit her throat – can I become a Graduation Day Speaker?”

Yes, there’s worse than that. According to John, the college has contacted the Vermont State Police. For those unfamiliar, this is a small college out in the boonies with a very roomy and impossible-to-secure campus. The commencement ceremonies are small affairs, with each program getting its own; the group that invited Mumia has only 23 students. It’d only take one nutjob to turn commencement into a crime scene.

I hope the VSP takes this seriously and provides appropriate security. I hope the troopers set aside their understandable feelings about Mumia and do their jobs like professionals.

And no, in no way does inviting Mumia Abu Jamal mean that Goddard “deserves” this kind of reaction.

Rank hath its privileges

Well, well. Looks llike there was more to the story of Louis Freeh’s car wreck than we were led to believe. 

The former FBI director was driving on state Route 12 in Barnard on August 25 when his vehicle left the road and smashed into a tree and some shrubs. It’s assumed that he fell asleep at the wheel. State police had said they would not seek charges nor even write a ticket. But look what the Burlington Free Press’ Mike Donoghue dug up

An out-of-control SUV driven by former FBI Director Louis Freeh almost struck head-on three motorists, who were forced to take evasive action to avoid crashing in southern Vermont, according to one of the drivers.

The driver, Van Coleman, gave a written statement to a Windsor County deputy sheriff, who was the first police officer on the scene of the Aug. 25 crash of Freeh’s vehicle. Deputy Sheriff Justin Hoyt said he gave the eyewitness report to state police. 

Donoghue reports that a motorcycle and two cars were forced to “swerve into the left lane when Freeh’s vehicle crossed the center line… and headed at the trio at a high rate of speed.” The witness, Coleman estimated that Freeh was doing at least ten MPH over the speed limit. 

Apparently, Coleman’s account failed to make it up the chain of command. VSP spokesperson Stephanie Dasaro, who issued three news releases that didn’t mention the close calls, said “I did not have that level of detail.” And Public Safety Commissioner told Donoghue “This is the first I have heard about that.” 

Flynn added that he “would ask for an explanation.” 

He’d better. This smells as bad as a week-old fish. If Freeh is not charged or ticketed, the State Police needs to provide a solid, thorough, convincing explanation. Otherwise it’ll look like the Good Old Boys’ Network got the better of justice.