Calls for Civilian Oversight of Law Enforcement in Vermont Continue

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Delivering on the Promise of Hope and a Future
Press conference during deliberations on Act 54

Working to Make All of Vermont Safe For All

Thousands of folks across Vermont have worked hard over the last number of years to ensure the appropriate protection of those in vulnerable categories.  The State continues to struggle to produce an environment that is safe for all.  We have been advocating civilian oversight of law enforcement for this purpose. Our calls have fallen on deaf ears.  We need your help to deliver the message.

The Fair and Impartial Policing Policy  (FIPP)

Act 54, updated Title 20, 2366 to require the Vermont Criminal Justice Training Council (VCJTC) and the Attorney General’s (AG) Office to bring the existing FIPP into compliance with immigration law and the VCJTC to create a cohesive FIPP.  The FIPP was negotiated and revised, reviewed by the AG (to ensure compliance with federal immigration statutes), revised again and adopted by the Vermont Criminal Justice Training Council.  As of  March, 2018, all agencies have been under legislative mandate to adopt all components of the Council FIPP. Finally, Act 54 requires that the AG and the VCJTC review the FIPP of all agencies, no later than 15 April, 2018.

Poor FIPP Implementation

Inconstant with process outlined in Act 54, the VCJTC changed the FIPP without the consultation of the Human Rights Commission in November of 2017.  This was done in response to a threat from then Attorney General Jeff Sessions to withhold a grant valued at over five hundred thousand dollars. It is no wonder that now we find that the Vermont State Police have failed to adopt the FIPP, as required by law (Act 54).

Recently, our friends at Migrant Justice informed us that the Vermont State police have failed to adopt the FIPP, as required by law. Migrant Justice says, in a recent letter that “The State Police’s violation of state law has resulted in farmworker Olman Lopez being placed in immigration custody. Because of the State Police’s actions, Olman is now in deportation proceedings and at risk of being permanently separated from his wife and three children.”

State Police Advisory Commission 

The “State Police Advisory Commission” SPAC is held out as the best example of oversight in Vermont.  Seven days spoke of the ineffectiveness of the body in the Spring of 2018. Despite the conflict of interest being brought to the attention of the Assistant Attorney General over one year ago, Governor Scott reappointed Nancy Sheahan to Chair the SPAC.  Sheahan, a partner at the Burlington firm McNeil Leddy & Sheahan is “a go-to lawyer for Vermont cops who have been accused of mistakes or wrongdoing.” All of this and in almost EVERY instance, law enforcement are cleared from any wrongdoing by the States Attorney or the Attorney General.


Act 147 (2016) updated Title 20, 2358, requiring all law enforcement to attend “anti-bias training approved by the Vermont Criminal Justice Training Council and training on the State, county, or municipal law enforcement agency’s fair and impartial policing policy”… On or before December 31, 2018”.  There is no indication that this deadline will be met by Vermont law enforcement.

In early December, 2018, it was discovered that the State Police were scheduled to attend a program that brings local law enforcement to Israel for training with the Israeli military, police and secret service. Local activists organized and petitioned and the state police pulled back on their plans to attend.  Despite our calls, there remains no consistent appropriate use of force, de-escalation and cross cultural awareness training across the 79 agencies in Vermont.

UPDATE: reported Monday (January 7, 2019) that an investigation by the Burlington Police Department found that Officer Erin Bartle and two others sustained injuries such as concussions and hearing loss during an academy drill known as the “hitchhiker scenario.” A fourth officer was knocked unconscious. During the drill, instructors punched recruits in the head without warning. Bartle is suing the Vermont Criminal Justice Training Council, which oversees the academy.   Read the latest update in this gross negligence of oversight and threat to public safety here.

Vermont Constitution
Article 5. [Internal police]

That the people of this state by their legal representatives, have the sole, inherent, and exclusive right of governing and regulating the internal police of the same.

Article 6. [Officers servants of the people]

That all power being originally inherent in and co[n]sequently derived from the people, therefore, all officers of government, whether legislative or executive, are their trustees and servants; and at all times, in a legal way, accountable to them.

Our Demands:

  1. We call on the Attorney General to
    • investigate compliance with Title 20, 2366 and 2358.
    • hold the pubic safety commissioner accountable to the law
  2. We call on the legislature to
    • mandate the removal of the Attorney General from the Vermont Criminal Justice Training Council
    • execute its constitutional responsibility to be accountable to the people by “governing and regulating internal police” with sufficient civilian oversight of law enforcement.
    • codify remedies for law enforcement violations of Title 20, 2366 and 2358.
    • legally prohibit racial profiling
    • mandate the incorporation the collection of use of force data into the existing traffic race data collection data set outlined in Title 20, 2366.
    • mandate that all law enforcement agencies be required to implement consistent appropriate use of force, De-escallation and Cross cultural Awareness Training
    • mandate that all law enforcement agencies be required to undertake appropriate use of force, de-escalation and cross cultural awareness training (and in service).
  3. We call on the Governor to
    • Hold the Public Safety commissioner accountable for racial equity in enforcement.
    • remove Nancy Sheahan from the State Police Advisory Commission.

Sign the petition for civilian oversight of law enforcement

Your Call to Action: 

Contact the Attorney General  and demand that he conduct a formal investigation into adherence to Title, 20, 2366 an 2358 and hold the Public Safety Commissioner accountable to the law.

Reach out to your legislator and legislative leadership and demand  public hearings and and other requests above to protect Vermont’s most vulnerable.

  • Main number: 828-2228
  • Find Legislators here
  • Email legislative Leadership here

Ask the Governor to remove Nancy Sheahan from the State Police Advisory Commission

  • Email the governor here
  • Contact his office by phone at: 828-3333

Sign the petition for civilian oversight of law enforcement