Vermont governor signs law on police accountability

MONTPELIER, Vt. (AP) — Vermont’s Republican Gov. Phil Scott signed into law a bill designed to increase accountability of the state’s law enforcement officers, but he made several suggestions about how he felt the law could be improved.

As signed by the governor on Monday, the bill bans police in Vermont from using chokeholds, orders state troopers to wear body cameras and requires law enforcement agencies to comply with racial data reporting requirements in order to qualify for state grant funding.

In a letter to the Legislature dated Monday, the governor said Vermont has been committed to fair and impartial policing for years and lawmakers needed to move quickly in the aftermath of the May 25 police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis.

“I know it was difficult to take on these complex issues under the time constraints during this unprecedented pandemic,” he wrote.

Among the suggestions made by the governor were enhancing a section that limits access by law enforcement agencies that fail to comply with racial data and use-of-force reporting requirements and clarifying the circumstances that could result in disciplinary action from the Criminal Justice Training Council against officers .

He also urged the Legislature to revisit the section that deals with criminal liability “without regard for legitimate circumstances in which lethal force may be necessary.”

Both the House and Senate passed the proposal unanimously in the closing hours of the first portion of the Legislature’s 2020 session.

The new law says the Vermont Legislature is “committed to continually assessing the progress made by the State towards developing a system of public safety that is effective, equitable, and maintains the public trust and continuing its work to achieve that goal.”