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Town Left Without Regular Police After Resignations

March 13, 1987

MILTON, Vt. (AP) _ The town’s six full-time police officers resigned Thursday in a dispute with the police chief, leaving the town without a regular police force.

The board of selectmen decided to accept the resignations in an emergency meeting Thursday morning one hour after the six officers and two dispatchers quit. The board ordered an investigation into the ex-officers’ allegations.

″We feel we have done everything in our power to bring to the attention of the town manager and the Milton Select Board the problems and the injustices that have been allowed to continue in the administration of the Milton Police Department under Chief W. James Lyons,″ said the officers’ resignation letter.

The officers did not make the grievances public, but a Burlington television station reported that they included an allegation that Lyons ordered a policeman to ignore proper search procedures when investigating a case, telling him to ″find the traitor, kick the door in, take the subject out and question him.″

″We have an armed robbery to solve and I don’t care how it is done,″ the complaint quoted Lyons as saying, station WCAX reported.

Another grievance alleged that within earshot of a 15-year-old sexual abuse victim, Lyons said that ″99 percent of the rapes reported were false accusations.″

The selectmen told Town Manager V. Michael Duffy to call in an investigator to probe the grievances, according to a statement prepared by the board, but chose not to act on the complaints at this time.

Duffy would not comment Thursday night on the report of the alleged grievances, saying it would prejudice the investigation. A professional investigator from outside the town would be hired to conduct the study, he said.

″The board of selectmen have not had before it a properly filed and constituted grievance,″ said a statement the board prepared. ″Further, it regrets that the officers chose to take immediate and drastic action by resigning.″

Selectmen said state police, the police chief and two part-time police officers would continue providing coverage in this northwestern Vermont town of 6,800.

State Police Capt. Donald Ravenna said state police already provide backup coverage on nights and weekends. Ravenna said calls to Milton’s emergency telephone number will now ring at the state police’s Colchester barracks.

Telephone messages requesting comment on the situation were left for Lyons at his office and home on Wednesday and Thursday, but he did not return the calls.

The officers had previously given the town’s lawyer the list of grievances against Lyons, said their attorney, Norman Blais, but he did elaborate.

Blais said the officers felt ″disappointment that the town decided to back up the police chief instead of them.″

He said the officers also felt confident an investigation would find the allegations against Lyons to be true.

Mary Bocchio, a spokeswoman for Blais, said the officers felt they ″could not continue to work in an environment that was so unprofessional.″

Officer William Timmerman, the Milton Police Association’s president, said the officers’ group ″took a vote of no confidence″ in Lyons on Feb. 18.

″We let them (town officials) know that we didn’t feel we could work under him anymore,″ Timmerman said.

The resignations follow months of disagreements between Lyons and officers on the force. Dispatcher Sue Cota said problems with the chief extended back nearly to when he took the job in October of 1984.

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