A Call to Defund the Vermont State Police

Defund the Police, painted in yellow on the street in Washington, DC

Here is the text of an open letter to relevant House committee chairs from Representative Brian Cina, Representative Diana González, and I:

June 10, 2020

Dear Chairs Toll, Copeland-Hanzas, Grad, Lippert, and Pugh,

We are writing with appreciation for the work that went into the first quarter FY 2021 budget and with an important request for the budget that will come forward for the remainder of the fiscal year in August and September.

We believe it is time for Vermont to join the growing movement to defund police departments, in light of the historic, systematic racism and other forms of bias that are well-documented in policing and use of force. We have an opportunity to strategically align our resources with services that are better able to meet the needs of our communities and keep all Vermonters safe.

We respectfully request a cut of 20% or more to the Vermont State Police’s operating budget, with strategic re-investments to be made in one or more of the following areas:

  • Mental health crisis response services, such as those provided by street outreach teams and others;
  • Increased support for survivors of domestic and sexual violence;
  • Restorative and community justice programs;
  • Solutions to end homelessness;
  • Economic development investments in black and indigenous communities;
  • Direct support for migrant/undocumented workers who have not been able to benefit from federal COVID-19 stimulus money.

As the organization MDP150 recently wrote, in defense of their work to transition to a police-free Minneapolis,  “Decades of social science research has revealed that the biggest contributor to violent crime is poverty, while a 2016 meta analysis of hundreds of studies by Yongjei Lee, John Eck and Nicholas Corsaro found that the relationship between police force size and crime levels isn’t statistically significant.”[1] A 2017 study published in the prestigious peer-reviewed journal Nature found that a decrease in proactive policing reduced major crimes.[2] We have long accepted that more policing keeps us safer, but a growing body of evidence suggests that this is not the case.

Large cities such as Minneapolis and New York are recognizing that it is time to align their budgets with their values and priorities. They are taking action to reduce police spending and realign resources. Vermont should do the same.

We call for ongoing study, conversation, and action to transition Vermont away from a model of policing as we know it and toward the creation of a true peacekeeping force that protects and assists Vermonters in times of crisis or danger, and that values and elevates the labor and expertise of frontline (and often low-paid) workers such as social workers, victim advocates, and homeless service providers. There are many evolving and inspiring models to consider. Vermont can be a leader in this work. Let’s roll up our sleeves and get started.

Sincerely,

Rep. Selene Colburn

Rep. Brian Cina

Rep. Diana González

[1] MDP150, “Star Tribune Editorial: We Must Look Beyond Police for Community Safety,” https://www.mpd150.com/star-tribune-editorial-we-must-look-beyond-police-for-community-safety/.

[2] Christopher M. Sullivan and Zachary P. O’Keeffe, Evidence that Curtailing Proactive Policing Can Reduce Major Crime,” Nature, September 25, 2017, https://www.nature.com/articles/s41562-017-0211-5.

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