Challenging a discriminatory, pretextual police stop that turned into a drug investigation absent reasonable suspicion of a crime.

Mr. Alexander was convicted of a drug-related offense, only to have his conviction unanimously vacated by the Vermont Supreme Court because, the Court ruled, the police violated his Fourth Amendment rights by impermissibly expanding the traffic stop into a drug investigation absent reasonable suspicion of any such offense.

The ACLU of Vermont filed a civil rights lawsuit in federal court in July of 2016, alleging counts for discrimination on the basis of race, in violation of both the Equal Protection Clause and Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and unreasonable search and seizure, in violation of the Fourth Amendment.

Named as defendants are not only the officers involved, but also the Chief of Police, and the Town of Bennington, arguing that their failure to properly train and/or supervise the officers led to these constitutional and statutory violations.

After amending our complaint to include new data regarding the Bennington PD's racially disparate traffic stops, the Court allowed us to reassert previously dismissed Equal Protection and Title VI claims against the Town and Chief.

In August of 2018, the court ruled against the defendants’ motion to dismiss these claims, saying that based on the facts presented it was reasonable to infer that “...had Bennington appropriately trained or supervised its police officers with respect to racial disparities in stops and searches, Alexander would not have been stopped or searched and his equal protection rights would not have been violated.”

On June 24th, 2020, the ACLU of Vermont settled the case in court with the city agreeing to a $30,000 cash settlement to resolve claims of systemic racial profiling by Bennington police.

ACLU of Vermont senior staff attorney Lia Ernst: “Our client is grateful to have this case resolved, having shined a spotlight on system-wide discriminatory police practices in Bennington. This settlement does not alleviate the need for top-to-bottom changes to a deeply troubled police department and to a municipal leadership that continues to deny there is even a problem with unconstitutional police practices in Bennington. The people of Bennington deserve far better.”  

Read more about the case in our Press Release.

Date filed