Motorist Rod MacIver and the town of Shelburne have agreed to settle MacIver's case against police officer Jason Lawton on terms that take police oversight one step closer to reality for all Vermonters.
MacIver was stopped by Lawton Dec. 12, 2012 for what Lawton claimed was a red light violation. Video of the stop shows that MacIver did not run the red light, and later, at the traffic court hearing, Lawton admitted as much.
That did not stop Lawton from demanding to know if MacIver wanted a ticket, and then giving him a ticket with a notation on it saying that MacIver had "requested" the ticket.
The ACLU sued Lawton on behalf of MacIver, alleging that the stop violated MacIver's Fourth Amendment right against being pulled over for no reason, and his First Amendment right to speak his mind to the police.
The parties reached an agreement to settle the case, and we're excited about it.
Under the agreement, the public will gain civilian oversight of the Shelburne police. At the time of MacIver's traffic stop, the last stop for complaints about Shelburne police officers was the police chief. Following the settlement, people who complain about Shelburne police behavior will be able to have the town manager review their complaints, and, if they are not satisfied, the select board.
We think this is an important development. The idea that a select board or state legislature is not capable of setting policy and monitoring police behavior in accordance with constituents' expectations is outdated.
Vermonters have rightly come to expect their representatives to competently supervise topics from road construction to debt issuance. Police work is as deserving of supervision, and we are glad that the Shelburne select board agrees.
Shelburne also agreed to provide training to its police officers to ensure that they interact with the public in a lawful and dignified way. And, the town's insurer will pay $25,000 to resolve MacIver's claims.
Getting police oversight requires Vermonters like MacIver to stand up and say something when misconduct occurs. We're glad that he did, and we're glad that the town of Shelburne is willing to make the effort of charting a new course.