The former U.S. Attorney for Vermont tapped by Governor-elect Phil Scott to serve as the state’s next commissioner of public safety says combating the state’s opiate “epidemic” will be his top priority.
Tom Anderson, currently at the U.S. Department of Justice in Washington, D.C., formerly served as the presidentially-appointed U.S. Attorney for the District of Vermont under George W. Bush.
Anderson, whose previous roles include chief of the narcotics unit for the U.S. Attorney’s Office, says the opiate trade presents the clearest public-safety threat to Vermont.
“Public safety and all law enforcement in Vermont is going to play a critical role in ending this plague,” Anderson says. “I think it can be done.”
Asked whether he plans any structural reforms to Vermont’s existing approach to the opiate issue, Anderson says, “I guess I’ll wait until I get up there and see how things are going at that point.”
“I think there are some strategies we can employ that are effective, at least from the law-enforcement end, to get a handle on this, and really break the back of this epidemic,” Anderson says.
Key Democratic lawmakers say they plan to move ahead in 2017 with legislation to tax and regulate the cultivation and sale of cannabis in Vermont. Scott has said he’s not necessarily opposed to legalization, but that he doesn’t think Vermont should move in that direction anytime soon. His incoming public safety commissioner says he takes a similar view.
“It’s [an issue] I’m going to look at carefully, but my views are pretty much consistent with the Governor[-elect]’s,” Anderson says. “He’s not saying ‘never.’ But now is not the right time.”
Anderson says maintaining and improving upon the Vermont State Police’s bias-free policing policies will be “critically important” to him. He says the Agency, which already has a director of fair and impartial policing, has been a leader nationally on the issue.
“That work is going to continue while I’m commissioner of public safety and we’ll expand it as necessary. In short, it’s critically important,” Anderson says.
Scott said in a written statement that Anderson “understands that our public-safety system requires close coordination with, and respect for, county sheriffs’ departments, municipal police and fire departments, and local rescue squads."
“He is also committed to having an efficient inspection system that supports economic growth,” Scott says. “Tom will bring to bear both his extensive managerial and criminal justice experience to lead the department forward.”