A bill to revamp policing in Vermont cleared the Legislature on Thursday and is headed to the governor's desk for a signature.
The bill eliminates part-time police officers in an attempt to reform a system lawmakers said made no sense.
In Vermont, part-time police officers have significantly less training (four-and-a-half weeks) but the same powers as full-time officers, who attend a 16-week residential academy.
The bill revamps the system by creating three levels of police officers, each with different levels of training and corresponding authority.
Under the new system, level-three officers will have full police authority. Level-two officers will be able to investigate 21 categories of incidents, ranging from the humane treatment of animals to riots.
Level one officers' powers are limited to transportation, security, vehicle escort and traffic control, although they, as well as level-two officers, can respond to certain emergencies while calling another officer to take over the situation.
Current part-time officers would become level-two officers, the bill says.
Level-two officers under the new system will be able to handle 70 percent to 80 percent of the types of calls local departments receive on a regular basis, said Rick Gauthier, executive director of the Criminal Justice Training Council and a former Bennington Police chief.
Several local police chiefs oppose the new system, saying they depend on part-time officers, especially because they don't have to pay them benefits.