by Gazette Staff
HARDWICK – Former Hardwick Police Department (HPD) Chief Aaron Cochran has resigned. In an email, Hardwick Town Manager David Upson confirmed that Cochran “signed an Early Retirement Agreement & General Release with the town.”
The Gazette contacted the Northfield Police Department and confirmed that Cochran now serves as a sergeant on that police force.
Cochran had been on paid administrative leave since January 10 of this year and placed under investigation due to allegations that former Hardwick Police Sgt. Darin Barber had mishandled evidence. According to reports at the time, Cochran investigated the incident and concluded that HPD policy was unclear on the issue and cleared Barber of violating the department’s policies, but the matter was brought to the attention of the state attorney’s office by a former member of the HPD.
As reported in the Gazette, on January 13, 2022, Caledonia County Attorney Jessica Zaleski released a statement that read, in part, that “an ‘independent investigation by an outside agency’ was conducted and ‘as a result of that investigation, the Caledonia County State’s Attorney’s Office will no longer be accepting cases from Sgt. Barber.’”
The February 2 issue of the Gazette reported that “Hardwick Town Manager David Upson said that ‘a signed separation agreement between Mr. Barber and the Town was approved by the select board at the last meeting. Mr. Barber is no longer an employee of the town.’”
Despite his early retirement from the HPD, Cochran remains under investigation by the Vermont Criminal Justice Training Council. In an email, Upson stated that “An internal investigation was completed by a member from another municipal department certified to complete IAs [Internal Affairs investigations]. No discipline or charges stemmed from the investigation … the investigation was turned over to the Vermont Criminal Justice Training Council for their Act 56 Investigation.”
Act 56 is a 2018 law dealing with professional misconduct by law enforcement officers. The July 4, 2022, edition of VTDigger reported that “Cochran stated in a text message on Friday that he had not mismanaged the initial investigation and had acted consistent with the town’s policies and on the advice of the town’s attorneys.” The Gazette has reached out to Cochran for comment but did not receive a response by press time. We will report any comment that we do receive, along with further details on this story as they emerge.