Senate panel scraps bill to curb powers of part-time police


Senators on Tuesday stopped a bill that would have changed the structure of full- and part-time police officers.

The Senate Government Operations Committee introduced an amendment that struck all 25 pages of H.765 and replaced it with a two-page bill that calls for more details on the proposal.

The original bill, sponsored by Rep. Bill Lippert, D-Hinesburg, eliminated part-time officers altogether. The version passed by the House would create three levels of police officers with different levels of training and responsibility.

The Senate's strike-all amendment asks top law enforcement officials to give the Legislature more specifics about what a tiered law enforcement system might look like.

It asks the Vermont Criminal Justice Training Council first for a report by January on whether there should be two or three levels of officer certification to replace Vermont's full- and part-time system.

Currently, part-time officers have the same police power as full-time officers but receive much less training.

The bill is an attempt to curb what some law enforcement officials believe is a dangerous system that gives minimally trained officers the same authority as full-time officers.

Some local police chiefs and constables testified against the bill, saying they rely on part-time officers to keep their budgets in check. There have not been problems with part-timers, they said.

Senators said they believe the House version did not include an adequate description of training and responsibilities at each level.

Rick Gauthier, executive director of the Criminal Justice Training Council, said the new language won't delay the council in moving to a tiered system of officers.

Changing the structure of law enforcement has been a goal of the council for several years and it was developing rules and regulations for the new structure before the bill was introduced, he said.

"It's not to take as much work as some people might think because a lot of this legwork is already done," Gauthier said.


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