FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
April 14, 2022
Contact: Stephanie Gomory, Communications Director, [email protected], 802-223-6304 x111
Montpelier, VT – The Vermont House of Representatives voted today on second reading to pass a revised version of S.254, “an act relating to recovering damages for Article 11 violations by law enforcement and a report on qualified immunity.”
As originally drafted, the bill would have ended qualified immunity as a legal defense for police who violate someone’s constitutional or civil rights. In its current form, S.254 would require an independent legal analysis and written report from the Office of Legislative Counsel on the extent to which qualified immunity denies justice to victims of police misconduct.
ACLU of Vermont Executive Director James Lyall: “Vermont should be acting to end qualified immunity this year. Three in four Vermonters from across the political spectrum recognize that qualified immunity is incompatible with civil rights and Vermont values. On this issue, their voices – and the voices of BIPOC communities most directly impacted by overpolicing – were not heard this year.
“The revised version of S.254 that passed the House will provide policymakers with an independent legal analysis of qualified immunity. That report should help to correct the misinformation and flawed analysis that law enforcement leaders and other opponents of reform introduced to derail this effort this year. We expect state lawmakers to use this report and to act on it next year.
“The people of Vermont remain firmly committed to replacing status quo policing with a different kind of public safety – one that respects and values the dignity, health, and well-being of all community members. For all our progress, we still have a very long way to go, and ending qualified immunity is an essential step towards that goal.
“We have seen that meaningful reform can take time, and we are grateful to the sponsors of S.254 for their leadership and to the House and Senate for advancing this critically important and long overdue conversation. The ACLU and our supporters will continue to insist on a public safety system that is more consistent with Vermont values and with the legislature’s stated commitments to police accountability and racial justice.”