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Morrison not returning to Burlington Police Department

Published: Sep. 7, 2020 at 12:51 PM EDT|Updated: Sep. 8, 2020 at 5:36 AM EDT
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BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) - Burlington has lost another police chief. Jennifer Morrison says she will not return to her position as interim chief.

Morrison is currently out on leave to care for her sick husband and says his health and the lack of support from the Burlington City Council are the reasons she is stepping down.

Morrison has been on leave since June so she hasn’t been around for the two weeks of protests outside the Burlington Police Department or the actions by the City Council to cut the police force by 30%. Morrison calls that reduction in police funding “unconscionable.”

Jennifer Morrison knows the Burlington Police Department well. She was a cop in Burlington for more than two decades before leaving to become chief in Colchester. She retired from that job in 2018 but was called back to BPD by Mayor Miro Weinberger in January to take over a force left reeling from social media scandals that took down both Chief Brandon del Pozo and Deputy Chief Jan Wright.

Morrison agreed to lead Burlington Police until a new chief could be hired-- a process put off until 2021.

Morrison stepped away from her duties in June to care for her ailing husband. She had hoped to return by October but now says it wouldn’t be “prudent” to leave his side. Morrison says it would have been easy to just blame her husband’s health issues. But she says the main reason she will not return is that she believes too many members of the City Council are more interested in social activism than good governance.

She also points to what she calls the completely arbitrary decision to cut the police force by 30%.

Morrison says the “City Council has created circumstances that are antithetical to public safety.” Last week the lawyer for the police union, Rich Cassidy, addressed morale before Morrison stepped down.

“I talk with officers on a regular basis. I have never seen morale at such a low. I know from what I have heard from others, that some officers are seeking employment away from Burlington,” said Cassidy.

Cassidy says the dark cloud over the department should not be seen as a victory for the protesters, rather a blow to the city.

In her resignation letter, Morrison applauds Mayor Weinberger’s leadership and calls BPD one of the finest police organizations in the country.

We wanted to talk to Morrison and the mayor but were told neither would be available for comment. We also reached out to the president of the City Council, Progressive Max Tracy, but did not hear back before this story was published.

Deputy Chief John Murad will continue to lead the department as acting chief-- as he has since June-- until a permanent chief is hired.

We don’t know the timetable for that. The original search following the resignation of del Pozo was postponed because of the pandemic.

WCAX asked some Burlington residents what they want in a new chief.

“I would just want a chief of police that’s really involved with the community and not just the community as a whole but all the specific communities that are within the one community,” said Marcus Aloisi, a UVM student.

“More relaxed attitude in the atmosphere and possibly more appreciation for their own staff,” said Cameron Higginbotham.

“We are just looking for racial equality,” said Emily Moehn, of Burlington.

Since the mayor was not available for comment, it is something we will plan to ask later this week. But we do know it was already postponed until the end of the year.

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