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Last updated March 5, 2020
No knock warrants
Vermont has not yet enacted a law eliminating the use of no-knock warrants.
Vermont has not yet enacted a law ending its participation in programs that facilitate the transfer of military weapons from the federal government to police departments. However, the Burlington Police opted out of the 1033 program in 2015.
Military style training
The Vermont State Police established a Fair and Impartial Policing Committee in 2009, which meets four times a year to address bias in policing. The Vermont State Police do engage in Blue Courage training sporadically, most recently in 2017.
Vermont has not yet enacted a law requiring the recording and cataloging of SWAT team use.
Civil asset forfeiture
In 2015, Vermont raised the government’s standard of proof to forfeit property while also creating a new incentive for law enforcement agencies to police for profit. Vermont’s laws now require the government to provide clear and convincing evidence tying property to an owner’s conviction in criminal court before the property may be forfeited. Unfortunately, the General Assembly did not reform Vermont’s innocent owner burden—a third-party owner must still prove that they were not involved in the illegal use of her property in order to recover it. Last but not least, law enforcement can now retain 45 percent of forfeiture proceeds. Although this incentive is much lower than those in most other states, it is considerably worse than what Vermont had before: a statute mandating that all forfeiture proceeds be delivered to the state treasurer rather than to law enforcement coffers.
Vermont has not yet enacted a law ending quotas for low-level arrests
Cost of misconduct
Vermont has not yet enacted a law requiring police departments (not state general funds) to cover the cost of misconduct.
The state legalized the sale of marijuana in October 2020. In his decision to let the law go into effect without his signature, Gov. Philip Scott specifically highlighted the historic link between criminalized marijuana and racial inequity. However, the state has not moved to decriminalize other low level, non-violent crimes
Objective justification for stops
Vermont has not yet enacted a law requiring officers to establish objective justification for making a stop (i.e. not simply for furtive movement, suspicious activity, or matching a generalized description).
Reporting stop details
Vermont statute 2351 states, on or before September 1, 2014, every State, county, and municipal law enforcement agency shall collect roadside stop data consisting of the following: a) the age, gender, and race of the driver; b) the reason for the stop; c) the type of search conducted, if any; d) the evidence located, if any; and e) the outcome of the stop. S.124 ties a police department's ability to receive officer training with that departments' collection of the above roadside stop data. This bill was signed into law in October 2020.
Reckless civil rights violation
Vermont has not yet enacted a law lowering the prosecution requirement from ‘willful’ to ‘reckless’ deprivation of another’s rights.
The State Police Advisory Commission (SPAC) investigates allegations of misconduct by Vermont law enforcement. “SPAC is made up of independent Vermont citizens who have no direct connection to the Vermont State Police. The State Police Advisory Commission provides advice and counsel to the Commissioner of Public Safety in carrying out his or her responsibilities for the management, supervision and control of the Vermont State Police. The Commission also advises the Commissioner regarding rules concerning promotions, grievances, transfers, internal investigations and discipline”
Vermont has not yet enacted a law ending qualified immunity.
Mental health response
In June 2020, the Vermont Senate passed a budget amendment that requires the state to create plans to partner with mental health professionals and place one in every police barrack. This mandates that a study be done by the Department of Public Safety to report on how this mental health effort would be funded.
Pending Legislation: HB 45, introduced in January 2021, would establish a grant program to "fund the provision of services by mental health providers in collaboration with municipal police departments."
Education, Housing, Community Health Resources
It is important to note that policing does not address the roots of social disadvantage and barriers to (economic) opportunity that often lead to crime. Nor should police be burdened with that responsibility.
Without access to quality resources in healthcare, education, and housing, our cities, neighborhoods, and families will continue to suffer. We should instead reassess the budgets of the state government and reinvest in the services that matter most.
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