Some town officials in Orange County say they’re concerned that state police response times may slow in the future as the state continues to replace and consolidate aging facilities, including the barracks in Bradford.
Like many small, rural towns in Vermont, Thetford doesn’t provide 24-hour police service. It has a three-person force, so Thetford relies on state police for most issues. And, already, it can take a while before a trooper shows up to a call.
Donn Downey, the chair of Thetford’s Select Board, says in some cases it can take more than an hour.
"Is that going to get even worse if the barracks move a half an hour away?," Downey asks. "Since a lot of our processing takes place in the Bradford barracks, as far as administrative help, if they pull out are we going to be carrying a lot more of that burden ourselves?"
Thetford’s police chief told the select board recently that the town is not equipped to deal with interrogation and holding space – some of the infrastructure that makes a police department tick.
The town would continue to rely on state police for high-profile cases, as it did recently when authorities were called for a report of a suicidal man.
Officials are quick to point out that that incident, which ended in the man’s death after he was subjected to a stun gun by a trooper, is unrelated to the consolidation debate, but Thetford will have to decide how to react if the state police barracks in Bradford were to close.
The state police have opened new barracks in St. Albans, New Haven, Royalton and Derby, and the Legislature has authorized a feasibility study of what state police want to do with remaining barracks.
"The whole point here is for us to identify ways to improve our efficiencies and effectiveness," says State Police Major Bill Sheets. The state police want to take the barracks in St. Johnsbury and Bradford and consolidate them at a new location off I-91 in Barnet, Sheets says. "We feel confident that by taking a comprehensive look at everything that we’re doing, we’re gonna only improve our response times. The way that we used to do business is a far cry from the way that we do it now based upon technology."
Sheets says troopers don’t necessarily need a central office. He says every cruiser that you see on the road is essentially an "office on wheels."
And combining barracks would eliminate the need for additional station commanders, allowing the state police to create more trooper positions out on the road where, he says, it’s more critical.