Associated Press (10/08)
MONTPELIER, Vt. (AP) — Gov. Phil Scott allowed a bill passed by the Legislature overseeing the use of force by police to become law without his signature.
The new law, most of which takes effect July 1, outlines when Vermont police can use force and deadly force, and it bans certain restraints, such as neck holds. The law also outlines the procedures that will be used to implement the new policies.
In a message to the Legislature delivered Wednesday evening, the Republican governor said he shared the goals of the bill of strengthening the state’s use-of-force policies to protect citizens and law enforcement alike.
“I believe, by and large, our law enforcement officers and leaders are committed to the reform work necessary to achieve racial equity and helping to develop policies and training that ensure equal treatment, protection, and safety for all,” Scott said in his letter to the secretary of the Senate, the body where the legislation originated.
But he said that “2020 has reminded us that systemic racism is deeply rooted in our nation’s institutions.”
Meanwhile, the Vermont chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union said the new law “gives Vermont the best statewide police use of force standard in the nation and is a critical step towards reimagining the role of police in our communities.”
Vermont ACLU Executive Director James Lyall said that people of color and those with mental health conditions are disproportionately affected by policing.
“Our continuing work to root out systemic racism in all its forms is far from over, but the enactment of (the new law) is an important step to making Vermont a place that is more just and equitable for everyone who calls this state home,” he said.
The Vermont Legislature had been considering police use-of-force legislation for some time, it was given a boost by the May 25 death of George Floyd, which prompted a wave of nationwide protests against police brutality.
While he allowed the bill to become law, Scott said he felt the legislation was rushed through by lawmakers partly because of the restrictions on public meetings caused by COVID-19. He said he believes certain terms are left undefined that raises questions about the intent of the Legislature.
Scott said he hoped those shortcomings could be fixed before the parts of the law defining when force can be used take effect next July.
Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed