By Guy Page
The Vermont Department of Public Safety wants public feedback on its plan to “modernize policing across Vermont” by centralizing under State control policies for diversity hiring, policies for use of force and body cameras, banning invasive surveillance, and more.
If enacted, the plan would centralize at the state level many hiring, training and policy-making powers now exercised at the local level of Vermont police agencies.
Governor Scott’s Public Safety Reform Initiative, created through Executive Order 03-20, directs the commissioner of public safety to “actively engage with communities, particularly those communities that have been historically marginalized or harmed by policing, as we develop and deploy best policing practices.” Additional details on the earlier 2020 modernization strategy and original 10-point plan are also available at https://dps.vermont.gov/modernization.
Vermont Daily noted at the Nov. 27 press conference that the plan “seems as much about concentration of policing authority as it is modernization of policing methods.” In response, Public Safety Commissoner Michael Schirling, the plan’s architect, defended the need for statewide policing standards and practices.
“We’ve reached a point where disparity of operation [for gatherng information, use of force, etc.] is not the way the public expects for things to function,” Schirling said.
“We have years of studies… they all say the same thing,” Schirling said. “Duplication and having that kind of variation is not the way to run these kinds of operations.”
A September 9 Vermont Daily report shows the Public Safety Reform Initiative includes:
- New hiring and promotion systems of police and police executives in “all law enforcement agencies statewide.”
- Hiring practices that promote diversity
- Statewide police dispatch and data computer system, standardized and mandatory for all agencies, to make use of force, traffic stops, arrests, mental health and other data
- Statewide model policy on body worn cameras for all law enforcement agencies and officers
- Statewide model policy on police use of force, including when and how military equipment may be used. This policy would ban “invasive surveillance technologies, advanced autonomous weaponry, facial recognition software or predictive policing technologies….failure to adopt the statewide model use of force policy shall result in limitations on state funding and access to training for the agency”
- Updated statewide training, schedules and methods
- Civilian or non-agency investigators to investigate allegations of improper conduct.
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