Vermont Police Decertification Bill Dies In Senate Committee

Mar 18, 2016

Legislation that would have made it easier for the state to decertify police offers for crimes and misconduct died in the Vermont Senate's Government Operations Committee earlier this week. 

After 10 years of advocating for more accountability from police officers, Allen Gilbert thought something would come of it this spring. The decertification bill was mere hours or days away from a Senate vote.

“And once again as we saw last year, those discussions blew up in the Legislature when members of the profession, this time management, said, ‘We need the summer. We can work this out. We’ll be back next year,’” Gilbert said.

Gilbert, executive director of the Vermont ACLU, had been pleased with the pending legislation because, shy of a felony conviction, the state currently has little authority to take an officer’s badge away.

“But people have to realize, there have been some really egregious examples of officer misconduct that didn’t lead to decertification,” he said.

Instead of going to the full Senate for a vote, the decertification bill died in committee. Chairwoman Jeannette White (D-Windham) said various constituencies from law enforcement disagreed too much on the bill’s details, so Public Safety Commissioner Keith Flynn Flynn will try to bring them to agreement this summer.

Gilbert says that’s basically what killed a similar bill last year, too.

“I think on this issue of police accountability, it really is a situation where the Legislature needs to lead, and not follow,” he said.

If policing the police is left to the police, Gilbert says, he’s not sure it ever will happen.