MONTPELIER — Tuesday was a big day for Etan Nasreddin-Longo.
On the same day the Putney resident and educator addressed several committees of the Vermont Legislature on the findings of a December 2019 report on fair and impartial policing, he was appointed to a role as co-director of Fair & Impartial Policing and Community Affairs for the Vermont State Police.
Nasreddin-Longo, who heads the Racial Disparities in the Criminal and Juvenile Justice System Advisory Panel (RDAP), was appointed co-director with VSP Capt. Julie Scribner.
Their charge, according to a news release from the Vermont Department of Public Safety, is to lead the agency's efforts to ensure fair and impartial policing practices at all levels, building relationships with communities of color and other minority communities, diversifying the workforce, and improving cultural awareness. They'll work to achieve these goals through recruitment and hiring; training; supervision and accountability of front-line supervisors; outreach to diverse communities; the collection of traffic-stop data; assessment of institutional practices; and reviews of state police policies.
In a virtual hearing before the state House Government Operations and House and Senate Judiciary Committees, Nasreddin-Longo on Tuesday reintroduced those panels to the findings of the fair and impartial policing report.
The report recommended, among other initiatives, developing a centralized bias incident complaint process, expanding data collection efforts to better understand how people of color interact with the criminal justice system, and implementing reforms to reduce racial profiling.
More specifically, Nasreddin-Longo said Tuesday, there's a need for data collection to "capture the high impact high discretion points" in law enforcement, criminal justice, judicial and corrections. This would help leaders and decision makers better understand how race intersects with decisions on criminal charges, bail release, plea bargains and use of alternative justice options such as diversion, Nasreddin-Longo said.
He also advised lawmakers that they need to listen to the state's Black and minority communities when making changes to the law, and put processes into place where legislative proposals are all reviewed for how they will impact people of color.
One example he cited Tuesday was the Legislature's attempts to establish the legally taxed and regulated sale of marijuana.
"The regulation of substances has contributed to mass incarceration problem we have nationally," Nasreddin-Longo said. "We need to figure out a better way to get those bills to the RDAP, or to some other body in some way - so that there's some assessment of racial impact."
He also warned against rushing to make changes without taking time to hear from impacted communities.
"One of the things I learned from my dear mother is reactivity is a terrible space from which to act," Nasreddin-Longo said. "We know after four centuries that rushing is nothing more than lip service."
Nasreddin-Longo was a visiting professor at Marlboro College from 2004-15 and holds a doctorate in ethnomusicology and composition from the University of Chicago. He was a member of the ACT UP AIDS activist group in the late 1980s, and he served on a committee that reviewed the civil rights practices of the University of Chicago Police Department.
Scribner, an officer with the Vermont State Police since 2001, has previously served as VSP's director of internal affairs. She was promoted to captain and staff operations commander in 2019 at VSP's Waterbury headquarters.
Greg Sukiennik covers Vermont government and politics for New England Newspapers. Reach him at email@example.com.