in the State House of Representatives
on September 22, 2020, by a vote of
Purpose: S.119 seeks to narrow the legal protections given to Vermont police officers for use of force and “justifiable homicide.”
Analysis: Vermont’s current justifiable homicide statute says that a police officer will be held “guiltless” before the law if they use deadly force while “suppress(ing) riot or rebellion, prevent(ing) or suppress(ing) invasion, serving a legal process, (or) in suppressing opposition (against the officer) in the just and necessary discharge (of the officer’s) duty.” S.119 narrows this statute so that an officer would only be “guiltless” for homicide if they are “promot(ing) and protect(ing) the health, safety, and welfare of the public.”
Officers must consider language barriers, medical conditions or factors “beyond the (suspect’s) control” when deciding whether to use force. For officers not under an “imminent threat,” choke holds would no longer be permissible for subduing a suspect. The overall criteria for force will be based on “a reasonable officer in the same situation.”
Those voting YES believe the state’s current laws on deadly force, dating back to the 1700’s, need to be updated. They believe the current law gives Vermont police too much leeway in using violent force. They hope S.119 will reduce the number of instances in which police use violent and deadly force to subdue individuals. Supporters seek to “shape police culture” with these reforms, creating more accountability of law enforcement to Vermonters.
Those voting NO believe this legislation is too vague and was too hastily developed, lacking feedback from law enforcement. Consequently, the lives of officers may be placed in danger. They believe recent legislation for reforming Vermont Criminal Justice Council should be given a chance to work before further reforms are made.
As Recorded in the House Journal, Tuesday, September 22, 2020: "Shall the House propose to the Senate to amend the bill, as recommended by the committee on Judiciary? was decided in the affirmative. Yeas, 106. Nays, 37." (Read the Journal, p. 1805-1811). Watch the floor debate on YouTube.
How They Voted
(Click on your Rep’s name to send an email)
Janet Ancel (D – Calais) – YES
Kenneth Goslant (R – Northfield) – NO
Jill Krowinski (D – Burlington) – YES
Curtis McCormack (D – Burlington) – ABSENT
Rebecca White (D – Hartford) – YES
Theresa Wood (D – Waterbury) – YES
David Yacovone (D – Morristown) – YES
Michael Yantachka (D – Charlotte) – YES
Samuel Young (D – Greensboro) – YES