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EXCLUSIVE: Staffing challenges persist for Sheriff’s Departments after pay cut by lawmakers

By Michael Bielawski

The Vermont Sheriffs’ Association held a press conference on Monday at the State House to call for the resignation of Franklin County Sherrif John Grismore regarding a use-of-force incident.

During the conference Windham County Sheriff Mark Anderson who serves as the Association’s President was able to answer multiple questions including about their staffing challenges, their relationship with the public and with lawmakers, and more.

The focus of the conference was about making clear they no longer support Franklin County Sheriff John Grismore to continue being a sheriff.

“The Vermont Sherrif’s Association calls for the immediate resignation of Franklin County Sherrif John Grismore. … Grismore’s continued defiance provides no opportunity for improvement or corrective action. Grismore continues to defend his actions ostentatiously with no remorse, reflection, or opportunity to consider alternative resolutions.”

What happened was Grismore was seen on video kicking a man while he was in custody in August 2022.

Grismore is facing an impeachment inquiry by the House of Representatives. Grismore testified to the lawmakers on Monday. In addition to concerns about use-of-force, there were inquiries about his finances.

Also, the Vermont Criminal Justice Council recently voted to revoke Grismore’s law enforcement certification.

Staffing challenges

KVS asked about multiple issues facing sheriffs statewide. They were asked about the current status of staffing with state police.

One goal is to change the requirements for retirement.

“We are working with the legislature to improve some competitive advantage in trying to hire many sheriffs in Vermont,” he said. “They are working under a retirement system that’s 30 years to retire for a deputy, whereas all other law enforcement in the State of Vermont gets 20-year retirement, so we’re working on developing parody.

“I know several sheriffs who have been able to hire and are developing their agencies well but it is a tight, competitive market where we are often at a disadvantage because of the way that we are structured,” he said.

Lawmakers cut sheriff’s pay

KVS asked about legislation that passed last year which was Act 30 which dealt with how the Sheriff's departments are run. There was a component that took away compensation that sheriffs get when for contract work such as regulating traffic within a construction zone or providing safety for a concert.

In March covered the part of the bill that deals with pay. It states that “It would restrict the 5% charge the sheriff’s department collects for doing contract work. Typically, sheriff departments can be hired to cover large events such as a concert or to help monitor traffic during road construction, and they are allowed to take 5% for operational costs, training and equipment, and even officer salaries.”

Grismore said while they aren’t happy with the component concerning their loss of pay, overall they have a healthy working relationship with lawmakers.

“Overall I think the legislators are supportive, I think that they are coming to understand, the newer legislators are coming to understand a kind of complex system that is the Vermont Sheriffs,” Grismore said.

“The work that the sheriffs do with the Vermont legislature on what is now Act 30 or S. 17 which included [dealing with] compensation, we were working with them on the regular. We helped develop it into a meaningful policy. There was a piece of it with regards to compensation that we oppose, we continue to work with the legislature to approve things as they work within the legislative process.”

Public support getting better

KVS also asked about the current state of public support for law enforcement. During 2020 many police departments across the nation saw their departments defunded, including in Burlington.

“The public does not appreciate this policeman’s conduct,” Grismore said. “When they see it, they expect leadership. The second part is I think that the public supports law enforcement. I think we are hearing many calls for support of public safety and working to help protect people, their well-being, their property, and we are committed to that.”

Use of force training is sufficient

When asked about the current status of use-of-force training, Anderson indicated its sufficient enough.

“The Vermont Police Academy provides continuing annual law enforcement training including defensive tactics and use-of-force, firearms training, and it is a significant portion of the work that we do,” he said.

The author is a reporter for the Vermont Daily Chronicle


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