NORTHFIELD — Local officials say an investigation is ongoing in a case where a Northfield police officer totaled a cruiser in November. But what agency is investigating the incident is unclear.
Town Manager Jeff Schulz forwarded a news release Monday about the crash that he said came out shortly after the Nov. 28. crash. The release states it’s from the Northfield Police Department, but it doesn’t appear the release was ever distributed to The Times Argus until Monday, nor was it widely distributed to other media outlets, according to an internet search; the release also is not on the department’s Facebook page while other news releases have been posted there.
According to the news release sent to the newspaper on Monday, Officer Christopher Hoar was driving on Union Brook Road Nov. 28 at about 6:30 p.m. when the 2017 police cruiser he was driving crashed. No other vehicles were involved and no other property was damaged. Hoar suffered minor injuries, the release states.
Schulz said Hoar was driving to work at the time of the crash and went off the road. Hoar has not been placed on leave and is still working.
Schulz said he couldn’t comment on the cause of the crash because it’s still under investigation by an “outside agency.” Investigations involving incidents with police officers are typically handled by investigators from a different, independent law enforcement agency.
According to the crash report, obtained by The Times Argus through an open records request, Berlin Officer David Rhoden responded to the crash. Rhoden said in his report that Hoar told him he was speeding and took his eyes off the road when he drove off the roadway and hit a retaining wall. The report doesn’t say what caused Hoar to take his eyes off the road.
Rhoden said Hoar was at fault for the crash, but it’s unclear from the documents whether Hoar was given a ticket. Rhoden said Hoar did not appear to be under the influence.
Who is investigating the crash remains unclear.
Adam Silverman, the public information officer for the Vermont State Police, said in an email state police aren’t investigating the crash. Police chiefs in Barre City and Montpelier, the only other police departments in the area with detectives able to investigate cases, also said their departments were not investigating the crash.
Schulz did not respond to a question Monday asking what agency is handling the investigation.
Police Chief John Helfant declined to comment Monday, stating in an email he didn’t “have anything further to add.”
K. David Maxwell, the chair of the Select Board, said in an email there is an investigation into the crash. But he also did not immediately respond when asked who is handling the investigation.
The town is in the process of replacing the cruiser. The Select Board held a special meeting Dec. 5 to talk about the upcoming municipal budget, and Helfant was there to talk about the police budget.
The board was told about the crash. Schulz told the board it appeared the vehicle couldn’t be salvaged.
This was confirmed at the board’s regular meeting Dec. 10 when Schulz reported the cruiser had been totaled. He told the board the insurance company the town uses would pay the town $18,000 for the cruiser. He said a new Ford Explorer would cost about $40,000, but noted most of the police equipment installed in the crashed cruiser should be salvageable.
The police department now has three cruisers at its disposal, including a 2014 Ford Explorer Helfant has told the board needs to be replaced, because it has high miles and needs regular repairs.