• Governor seeks review on how police release news
     | September 16,2013

    MONTPELIER — Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin is asking for a review on how Vermont State Police release public information.

    Shumlin asked Public Safety Commissioner Keith Flynn for the review after state police waited five days to inform the public that a dummy grenade had been found at the Morristown Police Department on Aug. 30.

    State police evacuated the police station upon finding the grenade while searching a car parked outside the station. A bomb squad was called in, but the grenade turned out to be a dummy.

    Shumlin told the Burlington Free Press that he and the commissioner believe it enhances public confidence when police are transparent.

    Shumlin is also expecting Flynn to review whether blood alcohol test results should be released by state troopers in drunken driving arrests.

    State police routinely included test results in news releases following arrests, but they’ve reversed course since the July 21 arrest of Burlington Deputy Police Chief Andi Higbee, when troopers declined to provide the test result.

    Higbee’s lawyer later released the information on his own, saying Higbee passed the first test with a reading of 0.077 percent but was just over the legal limit of 0.08 percent in a second test requested by the trooper.

    In a poll by state police, 13 out of Vermont’s 14 state’s attorneys said they favor withholding test results at the time of a drunken-driving arrest. Some feared the results might be thrown out later by a judge.

    Chittenden County State’s Attorney T.J. Donovan favors releasing the test results. The test, the traffic stop and statements made to police often are fought over in court, but that’s no reason not to release the information, he said.

    Shumlin supports transparency, but he’s has stopped short of saying that alcohol test results should be released after an arrest.

    “State police want to do the right thing,” Shumlin said. “They also need to be able to enforce the law. We understand why there is some tension on this subject. I think we are making real progress.”

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