Vt. lawmakers consider police use-of-force procedures

Published: Jan. 28, 2020 at 3:51 PM EST
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Officer involved shootings are on the rise in Vermont over the last decade. Now, lawmakers in Montpelier are looking to hold police more accountable and make the investigation process more transparent.

A bill sponsored by Rep. Anne Donahue, R-Northfield, calls for police to only use lethal force when it's absolutely necessary and when other human lives are at risk. It's based off of a similar bill in California and is now considered one of nation's toughest standards for use of deadly force by police.

The measure comes on the heels of several high profile officer-involved shootings including one in Montpelier this past fall.

Donahue says it's about protecting people in the community dealing with mental health crises. "This is not based on a sense that there is a inappropriate use of force in Vermont -- I think we have a very high standard of professionalism -- but it is about the importance of public transparency and public confidence in how we review those situations when they occur," she said.

Police contend that out of the hundreds of thousands of calls they respond to each year, only a fraction of them result in confrontation, and an even smaller number resulting in shootings.

State public safety officials say the best way to prevent high-conflict situations is to invest in more mental health resurces up front. They recommend expanding programs which equip police departments with a social worker so they can better deal with issues as they arise.