Lawmakers look to put more teeth into bias-free policing requirements


Amid pressure from community groups representing migrant workers, House lawmakers this week moved forward with a bill aimed at rooting out police bias.

The House Judiciary Committee on Tuesday discussed a measure they hope will pass this session that requires all law enforcement agencies to adopt one of two bias-free policing policies.

It also requires all law enforcement to collect roadside stop data, including drivers' gender, age, ethnicity and race.

The bill is a follow-up to Act 134, the 2012 law that required law enforcement agencies to adopt bias-free policing policies by Jan. 1, 2013. Very few have done so, legislators have learned.

This bill will enforce that ignored mandate and create uniform standards for police protocol statewide, said Judiciary Chairman Rep. Bill Lippert, D-Hinesburg.

"I think having a policy is fundamentally very important because it lays out the parameters through which we have essentially a single set of standards across the state," Lippert said.

The bill will still allow people to bring complaints about alleged biased policing to the Human Rights Commission, he said, and having policies will give a clearer standard against which to measure police performance.

Currently, there is no single entity monitoring whether departments have a policy, which lawmakers discovered is part of reason it is so difficult to determine whether police have adopted bias-free policing policies.

The bill requires all law enforcement agencies to adopt either the current Vermont State Police bias-free policing policy or the most current policy of the Attorney General's Office.

The bill calls for all law enforcement agencies to report to the Criminal Justice Training Council which policy they have adopted and for the council to then report to the Legislature which departments and officers adopted policies and received training.

The bill also calls for every state, local, county and municipal law enforcement agency to collect roadside stop data, including age, gender, race and ethnicity of drivers. Existing law encouraged police to collect data but does not require it. The data will be public.

If a law enforcement agency does not adopt a policy by Sept. 1, that agency will adopt the attorney general's policy by default, the bill says.


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