Vermont use-of-force bill passes without governor’s signature; taking effect July 2021

Vermont News

MONTPELIER, Vt. (WFFF) — The use-of-force bill is one of four law enforcement reform efforts in Vermont. It takes effect July 2021 without Gov. Phil Scott’s signature.

“The murder of George Floyd shook the country, and that includes Vermont,” said ACLU Vermont’s Advocacy Director Falko Schilling. “And one thing we saw over the summer is Vermonter’s coming out and saying loud and clear, we don’t think the police can police themselves.”

Schilling said the bill places the strongest restrictions on police use-of-force in the country.

“What Vermont did was raise the floor and say we have higher expectations for law enforcement when they’re going to use force and it needs to be reasonable and it needs to be necessary under the totality of the circumstances,” said Schilling.

Schilling said that under the Graham standard, established by the U.S. Supreme Court, the use of force policy mainly addressed the moment right before force. But now it considers the entire scenario.

“It will require every police officer in Vermont to be retrained,” said Chief Timothy Page with St. Johnsbury Police Department.

Chief Page says that’s partly why the effective date was pushed from January to July of next year and during that time the bill can undergo minor changes.

“That’s a very short timeline but, like I said, we’re going to do what we have to do. We’ll figure it out as we go along but we hope there’s room to talk there, that’s our goal,” said Page.

Scott said in a statement that he agreed with the goals of the legislation but urges lawmakers to revisit the bill with additional input from marginalized communities and public safety officials.

“I don’t think these conversations are over in a way and there’s more work to be done,” said Schilling.

“You know, there are good cops out there and a majority are good. They work hard every day for the people of Vermont. To be judged by the few is sometimes disappointing so we work to do it right,” said Page.

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