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Voices / Letters from readers

Two bills address police use of force

<br />Candidate for Windham 4 State Representative Seat

After the brutal death of George Floyd and increasing awareness about the mistreatment of vulnerable individuals during police encounters, the people of Windham Country and around our nation are demanding change.

Two bills in the Vermont Legislature provide an opportunity for decreasing the use of inappropriate force by the police.

I have contacted my legislators many times about an issue that impacts the lives of vulnerable Vermonters: the need for training and support for emergency responders in handling 911 calls involving people in mental health crises.

Pending bill S119 would require police training in appropriate use of force, de-escalation techniques, and cross-cultural awareness — all steps in the right direction.

As a volunteer support group facilitator for families who have loved ones living with mental health conditions, I know many families who have faced crisis situations. While some have had difficult encounters with the police, there have been positive, thoughtful engagements as well.

HCRS has had an embedded police liaison, social worker Christine Bullard, at the Westminster barracks since 2018. This strategy works to increase appropriate support and decrease the inappropriate use of force.

I have seen Christine work with individuals who are struggling. Her compassionate, knowledgeable, supportive response is a huge asset to our community.

Only two barracks in the state have people in her role, though momentum is gaining for inclusion of an embedded police liaison in every barracks in 2020.

Another bill, S219, will create greater transparency and opportunity for necessary data collection, important tools for addressing racial profiling.

The legislature is hoping to address S219 and S119 before this Friday, June 26.

Creating and supporting legislation to address the needs of people living with mental health conditions and all vulnerable individuals is a priority for me and will be a priority if I am serving in the state Legislature next year.

Please call your legislators and ask them to support both S119 and S219.


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Originally published in The Commons issue #567 (Wednesday, June 24, 2020). This story appeared on page B4.

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