Senate presses pause on police lawsuit bill

Sen. Joe Benning (R-Caledonia) yesterday explains hesitancy to support S254, which would remove police officers’ legal protections against lawsuit.

By Guy Page

Undecided about removing “qualified immunity” legal protection from police, the Senate Judiciary Committee will take a two-week break from S254

The bill would expose police to lawsuits from perpetrators, interest groups, and other members of the public. Supporters say the public – especially ‘marginalized’ groups – needs the power of the lawsuit to protect them from police brutality. Opponents say it’s not needed and will drive police out of Vermont for more cop-friendly jurisdictions. Colorado, the only U.S. state to remove police qualified immunity, has suffered ‘cop flight’ as a result, a recent survey shows.

Near the end of another lengthy day of testimony and discussion, Chair Sen. Dick Sears (D-Bennington) yesterday asked the other committee members: “Is there a problem? And if there is one, does S254 help to solve that problem?”

Sen. Jeannette White (D-Windham): “I think there is a problem. I don’t know how we solve it.”

Sen. Joe Benning (R-Caledonia), who is a defense lawyer: “I don’t tend to agree there’s a problem. We’ve heard about problems in the federal courts.  But this is not something that’s going to resolve that particular problem. I’ve been really uncomfortable with the timing of this bill, in the midst of everything else that is going on around us… when we can’t find people to get into law enforcement.”

“I am probably the only one on the screen right now who has actually experienced looking at the barrel of a shotgun held by a police officer. That’s what drove me to law school, and it drove me eventually to politics, and signing on to the expungement bill. I’m always sympathetic with the idea that people should be entitled to redress their problems with the police. 

“Oddly enough when I hear witnesses talking about this being a black versus white discussion and systemic racism, I will only say that [Public Safety Commissioner] Mike Schirling, when he was chief of police, was asked to begin taking data collection on stops by his officers by my human rights commission. So I am sympathetic with causes. But I do not see this as a systemic racism issue.”

Sen. Phil Baruth (D-Chittenden): “I wouldn’t have co-sponsored this bill if I didn’t believe that there was a problem, and i wouldn’t have co-sponsored the bill if I didn’t believe it was a good starting point for a discussion about what kind of bill might fill that need.”

Sen. Alice Nitka (D-Windsor):  “We’ve been moving in the right direction with all of the things we’ve been doing with police situations, training etc.. Those things take time to have an impact. I think this goes too far at this point.”

Sears said he plans to revisit and perhaps revise the bill in two weeks. 

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13 replies »

  1. This is simply a ploy by the leftists to have LESS police in VT & keep on decriminalizing everything – then when residents complain (as they did in Burlington) – the lawmakers can stand with their thumbs up their you-know-what and act puzzled as they proclaim that they can’t get any police to work in Vermont. They’re twisted & they’re evil & most are NOT Vermonters.

  2. S254 is a stupid idea because the left-wing-lunatic fringe, the loudest and most obnoxious anti-American special interest group that ever existed here in Vermont is behind this with all of their idyllic-antifah -arrogant ignorance and hate. This bill reminds me of a Barney Miller episode, with all of the episodes set in a NYC police precinct. A perp being held in the temp jail was threatening suicide. Eventually, Captain Miller (Hal Linden) superseded fashionable pop psychiatry and social workers, liberal tears and racism and went for the pathological jugular when he exclaimed, “Suicide is a Stupid Idea!”

  3. Opening this up to “marginalized People” might be the intent, but like everything legeislature’s do they just use a big brush and try to fix a problem (that doesn’t exist) with one swipe. This will open up a big can of worms and everybody and there brother will be tying up courts with lawsuits against cops. That is what few cops will be left in the state!!

  4. Notice no data or facts.

    Meanwhile we have an epidemic of drug deaths and family ruins from hard core drugs.

    Nobody seems to want to address that problem, and it’s real and quantifiable. It’s ruined so many families and drug and alcohol abuse is probably the number one cause of expenditure and trouble in Family Services….

  5. I think some of the more astute demoKKKrats are discovering that this police-hatred that their party has been sowing the seeds for is NOT POLLING WELL. The resulting crime is starting to
    affect the “beautiful people”. Of course, the hardhead loyalists of the America-hating left like Sen. Baruth are doubling down on the issue. That man is a public annoyance on so many levels. Hey Sen. Baruth: when everything is racist, then NOTHING is racist.

  6. Just another way to eliminate finding quality people for police work. Who would put themselves and the welfare of their families at risk when they might just be held responsible by every nut case that the police come in contact with? Police brutality is baloney!

  7. I’ve always been a strong supporter of good policing. I have a few friends who were cops and one member of our family who is on the force. After seeing how the police are conducting themselves in Canada, Australia, France and most of the E.U. countries and every Socialist-Democrat governed city in the U.S. to oppress the citizenry who are protesting and demonstrating against the loss of their freedom, maybe the wacky leftists actually have hit on something here! If a cop is more concerned about arresting a mother in Chuck E Cheese because her 2-year-old is not wearing a mask, while completely ignoring the BLM guy out in the parking lot nailing some 84-year-old Korean woman with a brutal upper-cut, he needs to have his butt sued. They have gone from ” To Serve and Protect” the Public to “To serve and Protect” the Socialist politicians and the elite!

    • I have a close friend who is a retired, on Disability, police officer. I have an invisible disability. He saved my life when the “system” refused to intervene.
      That being said, I will repeat: It is sheer ignorance to equate all “socialism” with Marxism. The concepts inherent in the broader view of socialism go back to the Scriptures.

  8. The photos for this story represent mugshots of the perpetrators responsible for the systemic corruption in Vermont. Any of them are more than likely guilty of fraud, crimes against humanity, and money laundering. Taxpayer dollars fund a criminal syndiate.

  9. I think these committee members should sit their butts down in a Police car on patrol in Burlington on a hot summer night’s shift. Especially, Baruth and Sears the two most out of touch on the committee. Take a ride with an officer and enjoy your night. Don’t forget to wear your depends. It’s people like these who hide behind their power of law who send the brave out to do their dirty work while they’re at home, safe in their upscale city house. They have no clue what it’s like to not know if they are going home uninjured or not going home at all. Phil thinks there’s a problem when actually the problem is legislators like him. NY seems a more fitting place for your problem solving.

  10. Police can be overbearing and criminal. We need more stringent weeding out of such. It can be done.
    However, BEWARE: Vermont is being overrun by “woke”, the “Movement”, etc. The goal is to eliminate police and place authority in the hands of mobs.

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