Burlington police officer settles lawsuit with state

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BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) A Burlington police officer who filed a lawsuit claiming she received severe head injuries during training has reached a settlement with the state.

Ofc. Erin Bartle filed a lawsuit late last year claiming she got a concussion while training at the Vermont Police Academy. Now, the academy is getting rid of that exercise.

It’s called the hitchhiker scenario. Bartle says she suffered a traumatic brain injury when she was hit in the head multiple times by a trainer playing the role of an intoxicated hitchhiker. As part of the settlement, the Vermont Criminal Justice Training Council agreed to continue an independent review of its use of force training and complete the review within six months.

Bartle’s lawyer, Jerry O’Neill, called the settlement a victory.

“Absolutely. There's no question this is a victory for Erin because she waited to come forward until she heard that other officers had been injured doing the same exercise and she said to herself, 'I should have come forward. I have a duty as a police officer to protect people. I'm now going to come forward,'” said O’Neill. “They've stopped the hitchhiker scenario. Trainees are not going to get concussions anymore.”

The council will also continue using a sports concussion assessment tool to analyze concussion symptoms among Vermont Police Academy recruits. When appropriate, they will contact the Rutland Concussion Clinic.

O’Neill says Bartle also received $30,000 in the settlement.