Burlington police investigators say their department acted appropriately and used justifiable force in handling a skirmish with protesters this July. Following the release of the preliminary report some city officials are calling for an independent investigation.
Burlington Police deployed less-than-lethal weapons during an altercation with protesters July 29th. Controversy has swirled since with some saying the police overreacted.
Friday, the department released an 83-page report detailing the circumstances that led to the incident and use of force.
In July, demonstrators marched, gathering in front of the downtown Hilton Hotel to protest a closed-door meeting between Eastern Governors and Canadian Premieres. Hundreds spilled onto a closed-down Battery St., but violence erupted later, as a small group remained to block busses carrying conference guests to a dinner party.
The internal investigator - B.P.D. Lt. Kris Carlson - determined that police acted correctly and wrote that significant policy changes are unnecessary. Based on the presence of bandanas, goggles, and milk for washing out eyes, Carlson believes some protesters - bearing red square badges - came prepared for a fight.
The report states police only deployed pepper balls and spray on individual protesters. The discharges came after multiple warnings and following interference during attempted arrests.
The report does note that the use of pepper-balls with expired warranties and usage-directions contrary to the techniques deployed - while not dangerous - understandably caused public concern.
Earlier this week, Progressive Rachel Siegel and three other city councilors wrote an email to Mayor Miro Weinberger seeking answers to a list of questions including officer training and removal of badges. "I have some concerns about how (police) acted," said Siegel. The report addresses many of those issues, but Siegel believes further investigation is necessary.
"I think they did a really good job, but I don't think they did enough," she said, "I don't think with all due respect to the police department that they can do enough with an incident of this magnitude."
The preliminary report will be reviewed by the Burlington Police Commission - its members previously appointed by the city council. But, Siegel says an independent investigation is needed as well in order to restore public trust in a city proud of its track record of civil disobedience.
The city council is expected to discuss the preliminary report at its work session this Monday.