Deputy Nick Palmier, who shot and killed Jesse Beshaw in Winooski last month, acted in accordance with law enforcement protocols. This was determined by the State’s Attorney’s office, and agreed upon by the “Voice of the Free Press” and others who saw the video footage of the death. While it was determined, conclusively, that Deputy Palmier acted within the law, it is not the end of the story.
I think we would do well to look beyond simple use-of-force protocols when investigating an “incident” that includes one human taking another human’s life. Killing someone is not simple and deserves in-depth analysis so that if there is any way to do better in the future, we will.
In this particular case, Jesse’s family has brought up four important things that I believe merit further response:
- Deputy Palmier had been “let go of” by two different police departments in less than two years. In one case, he was let go just shy of one year, just before his probation ended, so no documentation was needed to let him go. According to folks in Winooski, it was due to excessive use of force. Was this investigated even anecdotally? After he was asked to leave the other job, there was a shuffling of paperwork so that the official story is that he resigned. Maybe this was legitimate. But it adds to people’s concerns.
- He served two tours of active duty in Iraq. Does Deputy Palmier have trauma from his work as a soldier (or from any life experience)? Did that play into the situation? Has he been tested for PTSD?
- No alcohol or other drug testing was conducted. Deputy Palmier had been off duty for two hours before the incident with Jesse, according to a coworker. It does not take two hours to get from St Albans to Winooski. What did he do during that time? Might he have been drinking?
- Jesse and Deputy Palmier had a past relationship (which the deputy denies). According to Jesse’s family, the Deputy had arrested Jesse previously and they lived on the same small street. Yes, the video footage shows Jesse acting in a manner that appeared threatening. Might Jesse have acted hostile toward the Deputy because of their history? Would he have acted differently if he were pursued by a different officer?
I implore law enforcement agencies and investigators to broaden their lens. The use-of-force protocols do not account for the full story. Evaluating situations based on these protocols alone is not enough. One place to start looking for other solutions is to utilize the list of 25 specific, actionable solutions to police violence that Shaun King, NY Daily News writer, has published.
Let’s work with our local law enforcement agencies here in Vermont to enact any of these solutions that are not already being utilized. No one wants things to get worse. We at the Peace & Justice Center have begun this task and pledge to continue. We hope you will join us.