BRATTLEBORO, Vt. (WFFF) — Vermont’s first black female police chief says she has big plans for Brattleboro, including diversifying the department and recruiting more officers.
Norma Hardy, who was sworn in Wednesday, has 26 years of experience in law enforcement.
“I hope to bring the Brattleboro Police Department to be known as an exceptional department, as a trusted and trustworthy department,” Hardy said.
Hardy said she has faced obstacles because of her gender throughput her career.
“When I joined the port authority police there were not a lot of women,” Hardy said. “So making men, other officers feel confident in my abilities to be a police officer.”
Hardy said being a Black woman added to that pressure.
“Sometimes the male officers would make certain statements that I didn’t feel as if they were ferocious about it,” Hardy said. “I just felt that they didn’t have the knowledge that it might not be the right thing to say.”
Hardy said she loves knowing that young girls could look up to her in this role.
“I hope that I can continue to be someone that they would look up to and aspire to reach heights even greater than the ones that I have reached,” Hardy said. “I always tell young people, partially young girls, you can go further than I have.”
Hardy faces some tough issues. A report by the Community Safety Review Committee found racial bias and profiling have been a particular problem for police.
In addition, Hardy is one of just two women on the force, and the only person of color. Captain Mark Carignan said they want to see diverse candidates apply.
“To show the community we want to reflect the representation that they have by having officers that look like them,” Carignan said.
But the biggest challenge is hiring and recruiting.
“We are very short staffed right now,” Carignan said. “We have an authorized strength of 27 officers and we currently have 17. That includes the recent hire of Chief Hardy.”
Hardy said she wants to be a part of the community, and wants everyone to feel safe.
“Whether it is approaching us or us having to approach them, to not feel that they will be abused or harassed and that they can trust us,” Hardy said.
One of Hardy’s hobbies is to write poetry. She has been writing since she was eight-years-old.
“The one that most people talk to me about is the one I wrote after the terrorist attacks on 9/11,” Hardy said. “And it’s called The Men. That is the one that people speak about the most because it honors my colleagues that were lost during the attacks.”