Courts & Corrections

Randolph police chief arrested on domestic assault charges

Daniel Brunelle
Daniel Brunelle was hired several months ago as Randolph’s police chief after working for the South Burlington Police Department for 19 years. File photo by Mike Donoghue/Courtesy of the Valley News

The Randolph police chief is facing charges of domestic assault alleging he pushed a female relative to the ground and into a refrigerator.

Chief Daniel Brunelle was arrested in Berlin on Tuesday evening, according to Washington County State’s Attorney Scott Williams.

The chief is accused of pushing the woman to the ground during a confrontation in Berlin earlier in the evening.

The second charge came after the woman told police that days earlier Brunelle had shoved her into a refrigerator, causing her some pain, according to Williams.

At an arraignment Wednesday in criminal court in Barre, Brunelle was charged with two misdemeanor counts of domestic assault. He pleaded not guilty, according to Williams, and was released on conditions.

On Wednesday afternoon, Brunelle was placed on paid administrative leave after meeting with Town Manager Melvyn Adams, according to Selectboard Chair Trini Brassard, who said Brunelle turned in his gun and badge.

Williams said he requested that the judge impose a condition of release preventing Brunelle from possessing a firearm, which the judge declined to do.

Brunelle, 49, started as chief in Randolph in June after serving 19 years on the force in South Burlington, where he won an award for helping domestic violence victims.

The Vermont Center for Crime Victim Services gave Brunelle Ally Award for dedication and long-term commitment to preventing domestic violence and making a difference for victims of crime. Brunelle also has served as a member of the Chittenden County Domestic and Sexual Violence Task Force.

The Ally Award is given to a volunteer, professional or program that, outside of the course of regular duties, has advocated for victims and policies to help them.

Adams was “out of cellphone range” on Wednesday afternoon, according to his assistant.

Brassard said she found out about the charges Wednesday and that “this caught us totally by surprise.”

She said the board would evaluate what steps to take after the next court hearing on Aug. 18.

“I still stand by our decision to hire him as chief, and I hope that when this plays out and the court makes their decision that if it’s not a valid charge that the press will report that,” Brassard said. “These charges if false can be damaging to someone’s career.”

“I don’t know him personally, but I haven’t seen anything in the interactions I’ve had with him, or in the background checks or from fellow officers he worked with for years, we didn’t turn up anything in the hiring process, so this caught us totally by surprise,” Brassard said.

Brassard said the chief gave up his position until the case is settled “because he didn’t want to be a distraction for the rest of the force.”

She added: “We just have to wait and see what happens at this point.”

Attempts to reach Brunelle by email and phone were unsuccessful. His last address appears to be in central Vermont. On the town’s website, Brunelle said the Randolph force would “nurture public trust by holding ourselves to the highest standard of performance and ethics.”

Brunelle is a 1989 graduate of the University of Vermont.

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  • Steve Baker

    And not a day after President made that statement.

    • Homer sulham

      How can you compare the two? I doubt that a couple going through a divorce and a police officer arresting someone has any connection.

  • Gary Murdock

    “I still stand by our decision to hire him as chief, and I hope that when this plays out and the court makes their decision that if it’s not a valid charge that the press will report that,” Brassard said. “These charges if false can be damaging to someone’s career.”
    Ha…to late for that. He’s plastered all over the news and the damage has already been done. He’s guilty as accused.

  • Nate Wendt

    Unfortunate, and I am skeptical.

    It would be sad that officer who won an award for the precise thing that he is accused of is shown to be guilty.

  • Neil Johnson

    We need to change some laws that shield both parties from public until after a trial.

    There is never enough information, in most any report I’ve seen in any paper. Yet people are paraded around on the front page, state wide. Even when they are found innocent in court often the public has made decisions based on partial, often biased, one sided information.

    Perhaps then reporters will focus on the trial and justice, with more complete facts.

  • Mary Reed

    The Selectboard Chair made it very clear that the Board stands by their hiring decision. The Digger article details the Chief’s experience and accomplishments, so the Selectboard’s hiring decision appears to have been a very good one. There are many instances where first claims of abuse are, in retrospect and time, greatly moderated and mitigated; this may be an example of such instances. It seems the wise and best thing to do here is nothing – trust the system, trust the process, trust the involved, authorized parties to appropriately sort this out, and leave them alone to do their work.

  • marina brown

    I’m glad the police force did the right thing in this case. In all too many cases police who are accused of domestic violence face no consequences. Statistics tell a grim story. Partners of police are victims of domestic violence at a higher rate than partners of civilians.

  • Dominic Delia

    Isn’t it just great that our liberal lawmakers passed a law that anyone that even gets “accused” of domestic assault MUST be arrested and charged by the police even if the police don’t believe its a valid charge?
    That’d be like passing a law that if anyone accuses you of DUI the police MUST arrest and charge you for it, even if the police don’t believe it’s true.

  • Joe Shannon

    The sad fact is this guys life is ruined forever regardless of the outcome. We have created a system where a person can make a baseless accusation and destroy another person’s life without a morsel of evidence. It is extremely common in divorces for one side to make allegations to gain the upper hand in court. There needs to be more punishment for accusations that can not be proven. How would you like to be saddled with thousands of dollars in attorneys fees for something you didn’t do? If you are standing in line at a grocery store I can claim you grabbed my son’s genitals and you would be arrested on the spot and labeled a child molester instantly. Talk about a nightmare society we have created.