Vermont State President Pro Tem Becca Balint, Ben and Jerry, and other public safety advocates hosted a virtual event on February 10, showing support for Senate bill S.254. The event, Justice for All, focused on creating justice and safety for all Vermonters with the passage of the bill.
As it stands, S.254 would end qualified immunity (QI) in the Green Mountain State. Lawmakers created this bill in response to public demand: In a recent poll, three out of four Vermonters supported ending qualified immunity. The bill, co-sponsored by Becca Balint and Vermont State Senator Dick Sears, would require greater police accountability and protect the civil rights of all Vermonters.
“With [S.254] any Vermonter who is mistreated [by law enforcement] will be able to have their day in court,” said Becca Balint at the virtual event. “Broad qualified immunity prevents citizens from seeking accountability when their civil rights have been violated….This bill would help Vermonters have access to justice when they’re mistreated by law enforcement.”
Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield, cofounders of Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream and co-chairs of the Campaign to End Qualified Immunity, joined Becca Balint at Justice for All. The duo discussed how repealing the unjust rule in their home state will build trust between law enforcement and the communities they serve, strengthening public safety.
“We all know police have a difficult job,” Jerry acknowledged. “We need to love the good ones and we also need to hold the bad ones accountable because that benefits everyone—including the police.”
“Everybody deserves equal justice under the law,” Ben said. “Protecting and serving some people while abusing others is not the kind of policing Vermonters want.”
Other speakers included James Lyall, executive director of ACLU Vermont; Ret. Lt. Diane Goldstein of the Law Enforcement Action Partnership; and Vermont State Rep. Michelle Bos-Lun. Colorado Rep. Leslie Herod, who was instrumental in passing the groundbreaking bill that abolished QI in her state, made a special appearance.
“Since we’ve ended qualified immunity in Colorado we’ve now seen law enforcement held accountable to harm done in our communities,” Rep. Herod noted. “We need to make sure that we have good law enforcement officers in our ranks and get rid of the bad ones. We want to make sure that those who are in our communities to serve and protect are fit to do so.”