Roll Call: Senate passes diluted police misconduct bill

Editor’s note: Roll Call is published by the Ethan Allen Institute.

S.254, an act relating to recovering damages for Article II violations by law enforcement and a report on qualified immunity, passed in the State Senate on March 24, 2022, by a vote of 19-11.

The purpose of S.254 was to make police officers more accountable to those they serve. It originally stripped Vermont police officers of qualified immunity (immunity from citizens’ ability to sue individual police officers), but this was pared down to a study.

In Zullo v. State (2019), the Vermont Supreme Court decided that individuals may sue the Vermont state police for damages if they can prove “discriminatory bias,” a more restrictive right relative to qualified immunity.

S.254 would:

  1. Codify the Zullo ruling into Vermont law for all state and local police.
  2. Expand data collection and reporting by police, to include “use of force” data, broken down by demographics, with annual reports to the Legislature. Current law mandates police roadstop demographic data collection.
  3. Create a ‘Giglio (jil-io) database’ to store pending misconduct allegations about all Vermont police officers, for use in trials (but not to the public).
  4. Mandates the recording of all police interrogations related to all felony investigations, rather than just homicide and sexual assault, which is the case now.
  5. Commissions a report on police interrogation, regarding when police can gather evidence using deception and/or coercion, and when that evidence can stand up in court (such as police giving suspects false promises of leniency, and similar techniques promoted by Vermont’s Criminal Justice Council that are illegal in other states).

Analysis: Those voting YES believe Vermont’s police conduct laws are outdated, having been passed in the 1970’s. A harder look at Vermont police officers covered by qualified immunity is needed to ensure that a George Floyd case will never happen in Vermont.

Those voting NO argued that providing allegations of police officers, even to a limited number of people, is fundamentally at odds with the American belief that all individuals are innocent until proven guilty. They believe qualified immunity is being applied fairly in Vermont, resulting in millions awarded to claimants wronged by police over the past several years. This bill would add to the severe legislative restrictions placed on Vermont police in recent years. S.254 sends the police a message that they are not trusted, which makes police recruitment and retention more difficult.

As Recorded in the Senate Journal, Thursday, March 24, 2022: “…Was read the third time and passed on a roll call, Yeas 19, Nays 11. Senator Brock having demanded the yeas and nays, they were taken and are as follows.” (Read the Journal, p. 420).

Senate Floor debate, March 18 (1 of 4)
Senate Floor debate, March 18 (2 of 4)
Senate Floor debate, March 18 (3 of 4)
Senate Floor debate, March 23 (4 of 4)

HOW THEY VOTED

Becca Balint (D-Windham) – YES
Philip Baruth (D-Chittenden) – YES
Joe Benning (R-Caledonia) – NO
Christopher Bray (D-Addison) – YES
Randy Brock (R-Franklin) – NO
Brian Campion (D-Bennington) – YES
Thomas Chittenden (D-Chittenden) – NO
Alison Clarkson (D-Windsor) – YES
Brian Collamore (R-Rutland) – NO
Ann Cummings (D-Washington) – YES
Ruth Hardy (D-Addison) – YES
Cheryl Hooker (D-Rutland) – YES
Russ Ingalls (R-Essex-Orleans) – NO
M. Jane Kitchel (D-Caledonia) – YES
Virginia Lyons (D-Chittenden) – YES
Mark MacDonald (D-Orange) – YES
Richard Mazza (D-Chittenden-Grand Isle) – NO
Richard McCormack (D-Windsor) – YES
Alice Nitka (D-Windsor District) – NO
Corey Parent (R-Franklin) – NO
Chris Pearson (P-Chittenden) – YES
Andrew Perchlik (D-Washington) – YES
Anthony Pollina (P/D-Washington) – YES
Kesha Ram (D-Chittenden) – YES
Richard Sears (D-Bennington) – YES
Michael Sirotkin (D-Chittenden) – YES
Robert Starr (D-Essex-Orleans) – NO
Joshua Terenzini (R-Rutland) – NO
Richard Westman (R-Lamoille) – NO
Jeanette White (D-Windham) – YES

Image courtesy of Public domain
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