Ending Qualified Immunity in VT

In August of 2020, VPIRG endorsed a 10-point plan for reimagining policing in Vermont. The first point in that plan is ending qualified immunity – a judicial doctrine that acts as a shield for public officials, like police officers, when they violate someone’s civil rights.  

In the weeks leading up to this year\’s legislative session, the ACLU of Vermont, leading a politically diverse coalition of groups that includes key partners in the Vermont Senate, announced a plan to introduce a bill that would end qualified immunity for police in our state. That bill, S.254, is being taken up in the Senate Judiciary Committee this week.

If this is an issue you care about, please help us build that coalition even further by contacting your legislators to support ending qualified immunity for police Vermont. And you can learn even more about the campaign to end qualified immunity in Vermont by visiting the ACLU of Vermont\’s webpage here.

Qualified Immunity has been dubbed a “get-out-of-court-free card\” because a case can be thrown out unless a victim can point to a nearly identical prior case. That means that, even in cases of clear misconduct, where the victim\’s rights were violated, victims don\’t have access to justice.

This can create a vicious cycle that prevents police accountability. This judicially created doctrine is an arbitrary barrier to justice that is incompatible with our civil rights. Whether the violation comes in the form of unlawful arrests, violence, or profiling, we know that qualified immunity shields officers from the consequences of actions that cause disproportionate harm to Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) and other historically marginalized communities. And data shows that, like across the country, Black people are still over-policed in Vermont. Ending qualified immunity is another important step towards racial justice.

I want to be clear: this is not about unfairly singling out police – just the opposite. This is about holding our law enforcement officials accountable to the laws they enforce and making sure victims can access justice. And this type of common-sense reform should build trust in our communities by ending the double-standard of qualified immunity for law enforcement officers.  What\’s more, according to a recent poll, three in four Vermonters support ending qualified immunity in our state. If you are one of those Vermonters, please consider contacting your legislators in support of ending a legal doctrine that has clearly gotten out of hand.

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