Qualified Immunity Series

Learning sessions:

Working session:

  • October 8 • 9am-2pmFor everyone; you must attend one of the previous sessions to participate in this one

“Nothing about us without us”
-Unknown author from the disability rights movement

Qualified Immunity is a subject that can polarize, and here in Vermont, we are seeing the same tension and polarization as we see around the U.S.. So we are inviting stakeholders and Vermont residents who are interested to join affinity-based group learning sessions that will provide us with definitions and facts from the experts on QI from around the U.S. Those who attend the learning session will be invited to participate in a collaborative session across affinity groups where we will forge a path forward, working together to articulate what we need in Vermont and construct language for a bill that meets all of our needs.

Our learning sessions will answer the following questions:

  1. What is Qualified Immunity? Where did it come from and what was its intent? What has been the real impact of QI? How has it been helpful? How has it been harmful?
  2. What happens when communities end Qualified Immunity? What does it mean for law enforcement? Town/City Officials? Community members? What, if anything, has replaced QI? How successful has it been? What concerns have come up? How are they being addressed? What would you do different if you could change how you ended QI?

The working session will help us decide: 

  1. Where do we go from here? What, if anything, do we need in place of Qualified Immunity that makes sense for Vermont? What are additional bills, tasks, and to-dos that will need to accompany QI’s successor? Who may need to be educated or included about the changes?

We have learned that if we are to move forward in any direction, it is critical that we must move together and provide opportunities and space for stakeholder groups to learn about the realities of QI, and what happens in communities that have moved away from it, including what supports and education will be needed to support public safety for all.  

We want to come back to the legislative table in 2023 with an inclusive, unified vision for QI in Vermont, and produce a co-constructed draft bill that is evidence-based, relevant to Vermont, and responsive to all of our needs, including both marginalized Vermonters and those sworn to serve our communities.

We are pleased to welcome to this series two nationally-recognized leading experts in the field.

Joanna Schwartz in a black top, facing the camera

Joanna Schwartz is Professor of Law at UCLA School of Law. She teaches Civil Procedure and a variety of courses on police accountability and public interest lawyering. She received UCLA’s Distinguished Teaching Award in 2015, and served as Vice Dean for Faculty Development from 2017-2019.

Professor Schwartz is one of the country’s leading experts on police misconduct litigation. Professor Schwartz additionally studies the dynamics of modern civil litigation. She is co-author, with Stephen Yeazell, of a leading casebook, Civil Procedure (10th Edition), and her recent scholarship includes articles empirically examining the justifications for qualified immunity doctrine; the financial impact of settlements and judgments on federal, state, and local law enforcement officers and agency budgets; and regional variation in civil rights protections across the country.

Brendan Cox in a suit, facing the camera

Chief (Ret.) Brendan Cox is the Director of Policing Strategies at the LEAD National Support Bureau, where he brings 23 years of experience in law enforcement and criminal justice reform. Brendan retired as Chief of Police from the Albany, NY police department in January of 2017. He was employed with the Albany police department for twenty-three years serving in many capacities throughout his career.

In 2016, under Brendan’s leadership, the Albany police department was recognized by the Department of Justice as one of the top 15 police departments in the country as part of the COPS Advancing 21st Century Policing Initiative. This was a direct result of strategies that were implemented on community policing and procedural justice platforms aimed at building positive relationships with the community. Included in these strategies were the implementation of a Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion (LEAD) initiative, a Safeguarding Children of Arrested Parents training and protocol, and training around implicit bias for both police employees and the community.

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