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December 15th, 2017

Guest Opinion: Don’t Gut Our Fair and Impartial Policing Policy!

This spring Vermont took an important step forward by passing the Racial Justice Reform bill, Act 54 (H.308) which establishes a panel to address systemic racial disparities within criminal and juvenile justice systems statewide. As a member of the central Vermont chapter of Showing Up for Racial Justice, which was part of the coalition pushing for this bill, I was excited that the need for accountability and oversight with regards to racial justice and disparity was recognized. Part of Act 54 included a provision to revisit the details of Vermont’s Fair and Impartial Policing Policy which creates safeguards from biased policing and ensures that all receive equal treatment under the law regardless of race, ethnicity, immigration status, national origin, religion, gender or any other aspect of who we are. The intention behind this provision was to strengthen the Fair and Impartial policy through a collaborative process with the Vermont Criminal Justice Training Council. However, this Council has recently put forward a revised version of the Fair and Impartial Policing Policy that severely compromises crucial tenets of the transparency and accountability that the original policy established with the input of stakeholders such as Migrant Justice, the ACLU, and Justice for All. The new Fair and Impartial Policing Policy must be submitted by December 12th of this year which leaves a small window of time for meaningful dialog and collaboration with community stakeholders.

On behalf of myself and central Vermont Showing Up for Racial Justice, we want a Fair and Impartial Policing Policy that requires law enforcement to act with respect and transparency towards all members of our diverse communities. We do not believe that being a person of color near the border is grounds for questioning or search. It is imperative that we have a statewide policy in place to keep local police from acting like immigration officials and to keep communication between Vermont law enforcement and federal immigration to the minimum required by law. State institutions like the DMV should not share information about immigration status. Victims and witnesses must be protected from deportation or else they will much less likely to come forward. Immigration and Custom Officials should not have access to persons held in state jails. And finally, to be effective, this policy must contain standards for accountability and reporting when issues of biased policing do come up. Please join me in taking action now to protect the integrity of the Fair and Impartial Policing Bill!

Sign the petition calling on the Criminal Justice Training Council to approve the version of the Fair and Impartial Policing Policy (FIPP) that stakeholders and community members are calling for. (You can access and share the petition here: https://racialjusticereformomnibusbillvt.wordpress.com/). Join in the photo mobilization by taking a picture of yourself with a sign reading: “The Fair and Impartial Policing Policy protects us all. #Don’tGutTheFIP” and post it widely to social media. Help spread the word about the importance of our Fair and Impartial Policing Policy and the risks it is currently facing!

Madeline Sharrow & Central Vermont Showing Up for Racial Justice (CVTSURJ)

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