Last week, we made you aware of an impasse that we were experiencing due to pushback from law enforcement lobbyists. The following day, coalition member, Partners for Fairness and Diversity (Curitss Reed) unilaterally worked with bill sponsors to modify the bill. The coalition was unaware that such discussions were taking place. Among other things, the changes that were incorporated decouple Fair and Impartial Policing from H.492 and remove significant language that was designed to provide transparency and accountability in law enforcement. Partners for Fairness and Diversity is no longer a member of the Racial Justice Reform Coalition.
Among other things, the modifications that were incorporated decouple Fair and Impartial Policing from H.492 and remove significant language that was designed to provide transparency and accountability in law enforcement. The primary scope has moved from addressing the criminal justice system to one that is more global in nature (which the Pro Tempe President and Senate Judiciary Chair advised against in our initial discussions). Further, “areas of expertise” have been incorporated as qualifications for people of color to participate. Partners For Fairness and Diversity are now requesting resumes for these positions. The Racial Justice Reform Coalition has no involvement in this effort.
We owe it to ourselves to ensure that the creation of a Racial Justice Reform Board produces both a credible and legitimate outcome to address racial justice in the state. The involvement of an organization with a longstanding contractual relationship with the state in this legislative process has already began to cast doubt surrounding the legitimacy of the outcome of this process. I have consulted with Migrant Justice, Community Council of Accountability with Law Enforcement Officials, Black Lives Matter Vermont and the Champlain Valley Chapter of the NAACP and we agreed to remove Partners for Fairness and Diversity from the Racial Justice Reform Coalition.
The priority of the original intent of this bill was to enable the legislature to better monitor the work that is being done by law enforcement to address implicit bias and; provide recommendations and monitoring for future expansions of this work into the remainder of the criminal justice system. I will continue to work to restore the primary scope of the bill to address the criminal justice system. We have all seen real data that reveals disparities and reports indicate that the problem has worsened. The House Judiciary Committee is anticipated to call H.492 to a vote on Tuesday. We will therefore be unable to request any additional changes to this bill until it reaches the Senate. Many people have invested so much in crafting and advocating for this, which is by far the most significant legislative attempt to address racial justice in Vermont history!
Here is how you can help. Continue to stand with the Racial Justice Reform Coalition as we push for legislative change. Remind your legislators and constituents of the importance of addressing the criminal justice system first. Be present on Tuesday in House Judiciary to witness the final deliberations and and vote. It is not clear what time this will happen, if it happens at all as law enforcement continues to push back.
Mark A. Hughes,