Crime and Justice

Barre declined to review video showing incoming police chief’s vulgar reference to women

Barre’s new police chief, Brad Vail, was captured on video in his previous job as deputy chief of the Hartford Police Department using derogatory and obscene language in reference to two women who were law enforcement colleagues.

Barre City Manager Steve Mackenzie said that during the hiring process Vail disclosed the existence of the video, which Vail said dates to 2014 or 2015, but that Mackenzie chose not to review it or send it to the hiring committee. 

Hartford Police Deputy Chief Brad Vail. Photo by Hartford Police via Valley News

In the 19-second video obtained by VTDigger, Vail is pictured standing in the Hartford Police Department next to a female police officer. Both are wearing plain clothes. It appears that they’re speaking in front of one or more people out of frame, and that an unknown person begins recording the video surreptitiously midway through Vail’s remarks.

VTDigger is not naming the two women who Vail mentions in the video, both of whom were serving in law enforcement in the state. 

Vail says to others in the room, “She says, well, she says, ‘We’ve got the lesbian covered, (woman’s name).’ She says, ‘We’ve got the slut covered with (other woman’s name).’ She says, ‘I must be a raging c---.’” 

Vail then bends over laughing and claps his hands. 

The woman standing next to Vail, former Hartford Police Det. Kristinnah Adams, says, “So is that what I am? Does everyone think I’m a raging c---?” 

She then appears to realize someone off camera is recording the scene. She walks up to that person and says, “What the fuck are you doing?” 

The video then cuts out.

Adams, who no longer serves in the Hartford Police Department, could not be reached for comment. A message left at a phone number listed for her was not returned. 

In a recent interview with VTDigger, Vail acknowledged what he said in the video “was unprofessional of me and I’ve dealt with that.” He said his language and actions in the video are “not what I am about, certainly not my beliefs.”

The video, he said, takes his words out of context as he was “recounting a private conversation” he had with another person about the “perception of stereotypes.” 

“Albeit, I overembellished in an unprofessional manner,” Vail wrote in a follow-up email to VTDigger on Monday. “Further, it is certainly not representative of my beliefs and I’ve been remorseful over the incident.”

Vail was selected as Barre’s police chief in February and started the job in March.

Mackenzie said he didn’t find it necessary to watch the video prior to hiring Vail as the city’s top cop. 

“I haven’t viewed it. I never felt the need,” Mackenzie said. “During the search process, Brad was very forthcoming in making me aware of that. It was also reported in a very extensive background investigation.” 

The city manager said the video’s surfacing looked like “muckraking” against Vail. “I have no idea who it is, I have no idea why,” Mackenzie said.

Vail said former Hartford Police Chief Phil Kasten became aware of the video after Kasten was subsequently hired as the department’s leader in early 2015. 

Asked if any discipline had been meted out, Vail said he received “performance counseling.” 

Vail had been serving as Hartford’s interim police chief for about a year prior to taking the job in Barre, the Valley News has reported. The police chief position remains open in Hartford, where Vail served for 30 years. 

Vail said the video was not related to his decision to move on from that department. He also said he did not believe it was a factor in his not being promoted to serve as Hartford’s police chief after Kasten left.

“Regarding the permanent chief position in Hartford, the process for the position had not even begun until after my departure,” Vail wrote in an email to VTDigger. “Inasmuch, I did not apply for the position.”

Hartford Town Manager Tracy Yarlott-Davis, who started in her role last year, said the town does not comment on personnel matters and declined to discuss the video or whether any further disciplinary action resulted.

Vail said that he wasn’t sure if the Vermont Criminal Justice Council, which oversees the certification of police officers in the state, investigated the video. But, he added, “I know they had a copy of the video.”

Christopher Brickell, the council’s deputy director, said Friday that Act 56, which covers the council's oversight process for complaints of unprofessional conduct, did not become law until 2018. Therefore, he said, the law would not have applied to misconduct prior to that date.

Kasten left the Hartford Police Department more than a year ago. Calls last week to a phone number listed for Kasten in Maryland, where he moved, were not returned.

Mackenzie said Vail was among 11 people who applied for the police chief’s position in Barre. The position pays $97,500.

Washington County State’s Attorney Rory Thibault, who served on the advisory search committee, that the video wasn’t presented to the panel, which was “really focused on resume review and interviews.”

Thibault said he couldn’t discuss specific details that were brought up concerning Vail’s background check and screening.

Asked if he would have preferred to have known of or watched the video, Thibault replied, “The full context of someone’s background is always important, so the more information you can have, I think, the better.”

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