House passes bill calling for sweeping study of all Vermont law enforcement

MONTPELIER -- A far-reaching summer study of all aspects of policing in Vermont would examine everything from state police response time to creating a new state agency to hiring a cold case investigator, if a bill passed Tuesday by the House also makes it successfully through the Senate.

The bill, H.585, creates an eight-member legislative law enforcement study committee and asks for a report by December.

The committee will study:

-- the mission of the Vermont State Police

-- the mission of all other law enforcement entities in Vermont

-- the best way to provide 24-hour law enforcement with better response times

-- whether the size of the state police should change

-- whether state police contracts with municipalities improve statewide law enforcement

-- whether some communities should establish municipal police departments or expand their departments to include new towns

-- whether to create regional police or regional dispatch services

-- how state police special teams can best perform

-- retention of law enforcement officers prior to the age of retirement

-- whether to create an Agency of Public Safety and which types of officers should be under its jurisdiction

-- whether to increase the state's capacity to perform blood testing in criminal matters, to avoid using out-of-state blood testing services

-- the role of the Vermont Criminal Justice Training Council and the Vermont Police Academy

-- other issues identified by the Law Enforcement Advisory Board.

Amendments to the legislation call for a sheriff's department retirement study and a look at ways the state police might close more cold criminal cases.

The Department of Public Safety oversees state police but there is no statewide agency with authority over all law enforcement entities, such as county sheriffs and local police departments.

The bill, H.585, made its way through the House Government Operations Committee and the Committee on Appropriations.

Rep. Ron Hubert, R-Milton, reported the bill on the House floor last week.

Hubert said members of the House Government Operations Committee believe it is time to take a hard look at the Department of Public Safety, particularly the role of state police troopers in community law enforcement activities.

The committee wants the state to conduct a "data-driven" study to determine whether the state police force is "right-sized."

The study will help the Legislature determine "what functions do we expect the state police to perform, how they perform those functions and are the results what we'd expect them to achieve," Hubert said.

Rep. Michel Consejo, D-Sheldon, was the lone dissenting voice on the House Government Operations Committee. Consejo questioned the intent of the study because he said the recommendation came from House Appropriations, which is not a policy committee.

Anne Galloway contributed to this report.


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