On June 17, 2020

Lawmakers consider law enforcement modernization and reform plan submitted by police

Law enforcement and public safety leaders from across Vermont presented to the Legislature a draft set of action items and reforms intended to modernize policing in the state, according to a news release June 11.

The 10-point proposal, intended as a starting point for the conversation, was developed by the Vermont Department of Public Safety, the Vermont State Police, the Office of the Vermont Attorney General, the Vermont Association of Chiefs of Police, the Vermont Criminal Justice Training Council and the Vermont Sheriffs’ Association in consultation with community representatives of the Vermont State Police Fair & Impartial Policing Committee.

“America has experienced a tipping point in the nationwide crisis involving police use of force. Awareness and acknowledgement of institutionalized racism throughout the criminal justice system has likely never been at a higher level,” the draft document states. “In Vermont, there must be a systematic approach to comprehensive police reform. While much of this work has been ongoing for years, this is a time for police and the criminal justice community to listen to the concerns and calls for action and accelerate this work as rapidly as possible.”

The 10 recommendations follow:

Change hiring practices at law enforcement agencies.

Modernize training of law enforcement personnel.

Improve the process for promotions and selecting supervisors.

Ensure allegations of police misconduct are investigated with transparency and consistency.

Implement a standardized, statewide data collection system for use of force, traffic stops, arrests, mental health and other related topics.

Require body-worn cameras for all law enforcement officers.

Redouble community collaboration efforts.

Implement one or more means of providing community oversight of police.

Create and adopt a statewide use-of-force policy.

Develop a statewide stance on use of military surplus equipment.

The agencies and individuals involved in creating these recommendations understand they are a starting point, not a finish line, and they will be evaluated and refined with extensive community input. Many of the strategies could be implemented within three to six months, but the pace will be tempered as needed to ensure all Vermonters, especially those who have experienced inequity firsthand, can offer their ideas.

As the document states: “We will move forward together to ensure we not only follow constitutional, ethical, and core values, but match the needs of our respective communities. At a minimum, that means working together with all Vermonters to end the pattern and practice of disparate, inequitable treatment of the people throughout the criminal justice system. More broadly, we must forge stronger ties with the communities we serve to understand their needs and priorities and work together to resolve them. Together with our communities and partners, we commit to these changes.”

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