Blake protests reignite Burlington Police excessive force allegations
BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) - About 50 Black Lives Matter protesters remained camped out outside the Burlington Police Department late Thursday for what will be the third consecutive night. They’re calling for justice for Jacob Blake, a Black man shot by police in Wisconsin last weekend, and also for the removal of Burlington officers who have also been accused of using excessive force.
Dozens of people continue their protests on Thursday night outside the Burlington Police Department.
Hundreds marched through Burlington earlier Thursday evening, carrying signs that read Black Lives Matter, Justice for Jacob Blake, defund police, and at least one, demanding the firing of three Burlington Police officers accused of excessive force.
The calls to fire the three Burlington officers is not new and has been echoed by protesters since the first claim of excessive force about two years ago. But the movement has gained steam after a summer of protests started with the death of George Floyd in May, which ignited a wave of activism across the country and here in Vermont.
The conversation turned to local police departments, calling to slash budgets and reallocate money to other services. The Burlington Police have born the brunt of the demands, some of which have stayed consistent.
Officer Cory Campbell was involved in a fight with Douglas Kilburn outside of the UVM Medical Center in March 2019. Campbell’s body camera shows Kilburn coming at the officer and Campbell fighting back with three punches that left Kilburn injured. He died a few days later. Vt. Attorney General TJ Donovan ruled that Campbell’s actions were justified and no criminal charges were filed.
Two other Burlington officers, Joseph Corrow and Jason Bellavance, were also accused of excessive force. In the fall of 2018, Officer Corrow said he feared he was going to be assaulted by Mabior Jok after Corrow said he saw him punch another man. The officer brought Jok to the ground, knocking him unconscious. It is still unclear if he faced any internal disciplinary action.
That same night, Sgt. Jason Bellavance shoved Jeremie Meli after a fight at a bar, causing him to hit his head against a wall. Then Chief Brandon del Pozo determined Bellavance had violated procedure by not using proper tactics. Bellavance faced a temporary suspension without pay.
Both incidents also were investigated for criminal wrongdoing, but the Chittenden County State’s Attorney did not bring charges in either case.
Burlington Police Acting Chief Jon Murad says all three of these cases have gone through internal disciplinary action, which included civilian input from the police commission and participation from the city attorney’s office. Murad says under the police union contract and city rules, those internal investigations cannot be reopened, so the city cannot legally fire the officers.
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