Following the tragic death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, calls for police reform throughout the country have been intense and many.  Fortunately, in Vermont, our state's public safety community had already been working on significant reform proposals to ensure equality and justice for ALL Vermonters.

In early June, therefore, the public safety community – Vermont Department of Public Safety, Vermont State Police, Vermont Attorney General’s Office, Vermont Association of Chiefs of Police, Vermont Criminal Justice Training Council, Vermont Sheriff’s Association, and the Vermont State Police Fair and Impartial Policing Committee – in an effort to accelerate the work already underway, came forward proactively with a draft Law Enforcement Modernization and Reform Plan.

The 10 recommendations included in this draft plan are as follows:

1) Change hiring practices at law enforcement agencies

2) Modernize training of law enforcement personnel

3) Improve the process for promotions and selecting supervisors

4) Ensure allegations of police misconduct are investigated with transparency and consistency

5) Implement a standardized, statewide data collection system for use of force, traffic stops, arrests, mental health and other related topics

6) Require body-worn cameras for all law enforcement officers

7) Redouble community collaboration efforts.

8) Implement one or more means of providing community oversight of police

9) Create and adopt a statewide use-of-force policy

10) Develop a statewide stance on use of military surplus equipment

"The agencies and individuals involved in creating these recommendations understand they are a starting point, not a finish line, and they will be evaluated and refined with extensive community input. Many of the strategies could be implemented within three to six months, but the pace will be tempered as needed to ensure all Vermonters, especially those who have experienced inequity firsthand, can offer their ideas."

Simultaneously, I am pleased to report that the Vermont Legislature also put forward – and passed unanimously in the House – police reform legislation.  This legislation bans police from using chokeholds, mandates that all state troopers wear body cameras, and requires increased data reporting and conditions state funding on such reporting.

To be clear, there is much to be done in the way of ensuring equal treatment and justice for all Vermonters, but both of the items above are positive first steps toward that important goal.