Burlington, VT – This week, Vermont Police Academy (VPA) Executive Director Richard Gauthier made public comments in response to a Burlington police officer’s lawsuit against the VPA that run counter to the findings of an investigation completed by the Burlington Police Department, and raise concerns about his ability to oversee an investigation into the harm caused by VPA’s training practices.
“I am troubled by Richard Gauthier’s statements this week,” said Mayor Miro Weinberger. “With these comments, Gauthier has loudly defended a practice that he has been directed to investigate and that a review by the Burlington Police Department has shown to have caused unnecessary and serious injury to our police officers. Today, I call on the Vermont Criminal Justice Training Council, which oversees the VPA, to make sure that Gauthier has no role in the supervision of this investigation, and that it is instead directed by someone we can trust to be thorough and impartial. Indeed, part of the investigation must be to examine the role that VPA leadership played in approving and sustaining this unacceptable practice.”
Gauthier’s comments this week include:
- In an interview with Vermont Public Radio, Gauthier said: “The strike is not a full force punch… it’s more of a swat, it’s an attention-getter.” This statement runs counter to the investigative statements of nearly every police officer who spoke with the Burlington Police Department about this practice, and does not align with the fact that multiple recruits have experienced significant brain trauma and head injuries that they link to this practice.
- Vermont Public Radio reports, “Gauthier said there have been no disciplinary actions taken related to the complaint.” However, in June, Gauthier directed the suspension from the VPA of a Burlington police officer who evaluated recruits at the Academy. The Burlington Police Department was told that this suspension was a result of this officer’s telling BPD that this training tactic involved excessive use of force.
- Vermont Public Radio reports, “The academy decided Monday to stop using the drill — but not because of safety concerns. Gauthier said due to all the press attention, the element of surprise in the drill was lost. ‘It’s same as if you took one of our criminal law quizzes and published,’ he said.” The right reason to end the use of this tactic is because it involved inappropriate use of force.
- In an interview with VT Digger, Gauthier stated, in response to a question about whether the academy thought the training exercise appropriate, “Obviously we did or we wouldn’t have used it."
“In his comments this week, Gauthier has continued to defend a violent training practice that has resulted in serious injury to multiple trainees, and that is not, to our knowledge, used by any other police academy,” said Mayor Weinberger. “I am thankful for Burlington Police Chief Brandon del Pozo’s persistent leadership over the last year to protect not only Burlington’s police officers, but all those across the state who are participating in Vermont Policy Academy training. Those of us responsible for leading and overseeing law enforcement must always make the safety of our police officers one of our highest priorities. We owe nothing less to the brave individuals who have committed their careers to keeping our communities safe.”