Despite the down-and-out city's efforts to shed its unfortunate reputation, which we covered in a 2012 cover story, Rutland just got another black eye: According to internal documents, the Rutland City Police Department has been plagued by officer misconduct, a culture of fear, and favoritism.
Chittenden resident and VPR reporter Nina Keck paints a gloomy picture of the department — but it's not the first time the Rutland cops have made headlines. As former Seven Days news editor Andy Bromage reported in 2011, Rutland police Sgt. David Schauwecker was charged in 2010 with removing pornography seized as evidence for his own use, and then lying to investigators to deflect attention. Another patrolman resigned after allegedly using improper force on a man handcuffed in a holding cell.
Apparently, things haven't changed much. Former police officer Chris Kiefer-Cioffi — who spent 27 years in the department — told Keck the "good ol' boy club is running rampant in that department," and alleges supervisors knew about misconduct and, in some cases, participated in it.
The troubled department has been under the leadership of Chief Jim Baker since January 2012; Baker stepped in following the controversial ousting of a former chief. Keck reports that while Baker was "shocked" by the state of the department when he took over, not everyone thinks the new chief has done enough to right the listing ship. Keck reports:
As Baker works on repairing the department, allegations of favoritism continue. Top Rutland City police officials, including Baker, were sued earlier this year by former officer Andrew Todd, who alleges he was forced out of his job because of widespread management problems.
Todd left the police to become a state trooper just as Baker arrived in 2012. According to the lawsuit, Todd, who was the only African American on the force, complained several times to supervisors Geno and Tucker about the alleged unethical and racist behavior of two fellow officers.
According to Keck, city officials stand behind Baker and the changes he's making in the department. But as Keck reports, "whether those changes occur fast enough or restore the public trust remains to be seen."