BY MAT CLOUSER
BRANDON — Anyone willing to brave the onslaught of pollen this year and venture outside has likely noticed several changes afoot in Brandon. For many, the changes have probably been welcome—the weather is ideal, flowers are blooming, bees are bumbling along, and even the night sky feels rife with the welcome clicking of hungry bats.
For others, however, it may feel like something more worrisome. Dedicated readers of The Reporter are likely among this group as hardly a week goes by without another account of violence, abuse, or mental illness cropping up in the police report.
And yet, for Brandon Chief of Police David Kachajian, this is business as usual. Despite the unavoidable nature of life’s tragedies, Kachajian remains committed to his post and intends to equip himself and the town with a few new systems that might help raise awareness and increase safety overall.
According to Kachajian, some of the recent upticks in police activity are to be expected, stark though they may be. Some of it stems from ongoing societal problems such as gun violence, the war on drugs, and the mental-health fallout tied to COVID-related isolation. But some of it also stems from a difference in the provision of information.
“I don’t like to sugarcoat things. People need to know what’s going on in the community,” he said, speaking of his department’s efforts to report the full spectrum of police activities. “Knowing what’s going on in the real world is fascinating, and it justifies our existence to some degree.”
To that end, Kachajian says BPD is working hard in its recruiting efforts, and its goal remains to provide 24-hour coverage to the people of Brandon. “Our new officers are fitting in well,” he said. He also mentioned that the department had been having a hard time finding candidates to fill its lieutenant post but was just about to hire a part-time officer with one more potentially on deck.
He intimated that more change was needed to make a lasting difference within the department and throughout Vermont. “We’re probably overdue for consolidation of our regional, county, and metro police departments,” he said, mentioning a recent conversation he’d had with State Rep. Stephanie Jerome about how police might use their resources more effectively.
Kachajian also said he’d like to see School Resource Officers return to Brandon. “The pandemic has definitely contributed to mental health issues, especially with our kids,” he said. “We get non-stop calls from OVUHS. It’s taxing on our time and resources.”
“I believe 100% in the efficacy of SROs,” he continued, “because I’ve seen the good they can do. They’ve gotten a bad rap around the U.S. I don’t believe they should be there as disciplinarians.”
As for the recent uptick in traffic stops and citations listed in the police reports, Kachajian says they are not revenue related and have stemmed mainly from calls by concerned citizens. “I don’t believe in speed traps—I’m not sure how effective they are,” he said. “I’ve seen it happen, but that’s not what our job should be. It’s about safety, not revenue.”
Another new safety program of particular importance to Chief Kachajian is implementing BPD’s new ‘sheepdog program.’
Not to be confused with their recent acquisition of a German Shepard puppy, K-9 Officer Guinness—whom Kachajian says is growing up quickly and doing great despite a brief spell where he used the Chief’s office to relieve himself—the sheepdog program takes its name symbolically.
The program, in which Brandon residents may enroll voluntarily and for free, is an outreach program that assists search and rescue efforts for those in the community who may be suffering from complications due to dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, or similar issues.
The information would be kept in a binder—not in a database—and it is meant to help officers understand people’s tendencies, vehicles, clothing, favorite places, and so on, as well as to help them know which people might feel threatened by police or may be prone to violence when confronted or startled.
Anyone interested in enrolling in the program or with additional questions may contact the BPD at (802) 247-0222 or by email via Administrative Assistant Linda Graziano at Linda.Graziano@Vermont.gov.
Other immediate plans for change within the department include the recent purchase of an electric motorcycle which Kachajian called “a good faith effort” stemming from conversations with the select board about the department’s eventual transition into an all-electric fleet. This change. This change will happen gradually as the existing vehicles wear out.