Crime and Justice

Milton police face new scrutiny over forceful arrest of Black teen in May

Black teen being arrested
New scrutiny of the May 10 arrest came after a video was posted on Facebook on Thursday. Image via Facebook/Dres Angel

Milton Police Chief Stephen Laroche said Thursday he will reopen an internal investigation into the forceful arrest of a Black teenager that took place on May 10 — and was reaching out to a state use-of-force expert to review the case. 

Laroche’s commitment came in a press release Thursday after a video showing the arrest of a Black teenager in Milton began making the rounds on social media, racking up more than a thousand views and eliciting calls for action to sanction the officers involved. 

The arrest was made by two white police officers on May 10, two weeks before George Floyd, a Black Minneapolis resident, was killed by white police officer Derrick Chauvin when he pressed his knee into Floyd’s neck for more than 8 minutes. 

“For transparency, I’m reaching out to the lead instructor who teaches at the Vermont Police Academy, to have him take a look at the tactics that were used to make sure they’re within the training policy,” Laroche said.

That state expert, Drew Bloom, the director of administration for the Vermont Criminal Justice Training Council, confirmed he received an email yesterday from a Milton Police sergeant that asked him to review a 40-second video that was shot by a bystander during the arrest. 

“I said I’d be happy to talk to him in generalities about the application of force but I’m not going to, by any means, venture to offer a professional opinion without doing a full assessment,” Bloom said, adding that reviewing the video would be the last step in his review process, which would only occur in response to a formal request (state’s attorneys and the Attorney General’s Office typically investigate use-of-force cases).  

“The last thing that I want to do when I review any use of force is watch the video,” Bloom said. “No, I need to read all of the reports. I need to read witness statements. I need to read affidavits. I need to read in any depositions if they exist. I want to do everything else possible first before I watched the video because I don’t want to be tainted in my opinion.” 

Laroche could not be contacted Friday to discuss Bloom’s denial of his request. He said Thursday that the Milton Police Department conducted its own use of force investigation in May and found the use of force was justified. Both officers remain on active duty, he added. 

In the video, Milton police can be seen grappling with a Black teenager, on the hood of a car.

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The teen pleads with the officers to “listen” to him as he’s taken to the ground. The teen can be heard yelling “please listen to me,” as the two officers tell him “you’re going to get on the ground.” 

As the teen lands on the pavement he screams out as one officer puts his knee into the upper middle portion of the man’s back, just below the neck, as the other officer works to secure the man’s hands. 

After a few seconds, the officer stands up and the man yells, “I’m not getting up,” and shouts an obscenity.

The video lasts a total of 40 seconds. (The teenager in the video could not be reached for comment).

Laroche said the Black teen in the video was thought to be an adult at the time of the arrest, which was part of a long burglary investigation. Officers were arresting the 17-year-old (who it is not naming publicly) on four counts of felony burglary, Laroche said. 

“We had probable cause at the time of the video, to arrest him for four counts of burglary,” Laroche said. “And after the fact, it came to our attention that he was wanted out of the state of New Jersey. He had been on runaway status with them for approximately two years and it’s my understanding he has been returned to the state of New Jersey.” 

Within the department, every time force is used there is a review of the incident with a supervisor, which did happen in May, Laroche said. 

The new investigation “is in the early stages, it was just assigned to a supervisor to look into the incident as far as to make sure everything was followed,” he said. 

The post associated with the video states the incident happened on June 24, and that the teen was shot with a “stun gun” three times during the incident. But Laroche said neither claim is true: a Taser was only taken out for “display purposes,” but wasn’t used.  

The original poster of the video could not be reached for comment, nor could the person’s real name be confirmed. 

The post makes the point that Vermont is not immune to the type of police behavior against Black people that has sparked the nationwide outcry. 

“Everyone thinks this only happens in other states.. WAKE UP!!! This is our own backyard,” the post states. “But our BLACK Youth are supposed to NOT be afraid … are you kidding me!!”

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Sawyer Loftus

About Sawyer

Sawyer Loftus will be a senior this fall at the University of Vermont, where he is pursuing a degree in history with a minor in public communication. He has been involved with the Vermont Cynic, UVM’s independent student newspaper, since his freshman year. This past year, he was news and sports editor, and will become editor-in-chief in August. Sawyer grew up in Colchester and previously interned at Vermont Public Radio, where he worked on "All Things Considered." He also worked at the Burlington Free Press, where he covered a variety of topics with words and multimedia.
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