Springfield police push back against chief’s conduct
SPRINGFIELD, Vt. — Members of the Springfield Police Benevolent Association voted “no confidence” in Police Chief Doug Johnston and have asked the town to fire him.
In a letter dated July 13, which was hand-delivered to the town manager on July 23, Union President Shaun Smith, a detective with the department, said a majority of the union members had voted no confidence in the chief.
The letter reads, in part, “Chief Johnston has fostered an atmosphere of hostility, retaliation and unprofessionalism ... Lack of leadership, mismanagement, and poor policy decisions have not only damaged the relationships of the Union members that work for Chief Johnston, but that of the members of the public/cooperating agencies as well.”
The union said attempts to work it out with Johnston had failed and “moral(e) of the department is at an all-time low ... Chief Johnston has established a pattern of inequitable treatment of department personnel, and utilizes the internal investigation procedures and threat of disciplinary action as a means to intimidate and belittle members of the department and without warrant at times.”
It goes on to accuse Johnston of mismanaging agency resources and agency funds, including not making sure there were enough police vehicles available for shifts, and states that the chief lacks sufficient knowledge of criminal procedures, so that he has on occasion advised taking actions that “contradict law, practice, or State’s attorney direction.” The letter alleges a hostile work environment at the department, and says recruiting and hiring have been negatively affected.
Johnston, a 39-year veteran of the force, worked up to his current position through the ranks. In an email to the Eagle Times, Johnston wrote: “I am aware of the letter of complaint from the union about me. I have been Chief of Police for over 17 years. I continue to manage the department as I always have. I set expectations for employees and then hold them accountable if they do not meet them. I give praise when deserved and criticism when warranted. I hope this is not an attempt to circumvent accountability by the union. I am confident that I have done my job in a way that would satisfy the people of Springfield.”
Town manager Tom Yennerell said he was not at liberty to discuss the matter. “It’s a sensitive human resource issue. I have been discussing the matter with the union and the chief to come to a resolution.”