Queen City residents respond as loss of midnight patrol looms

Published: Jan. 16, 2021 at 11:47 PM EST
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BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) - The threat of losing Queen City’s midnight patrol looms. The Burlington Police Officers Association warns that will likely happen in the next few months, when they are down to only 76 officers. Right now, they have 79.

Burlington residents found a pamphlet in their mailboxes this week from the Burlington Police Officers Association warning that if staffing levels drop much further they could lose the midnight shift.

“There are going to be some very very dire and grave consequences by at least not being able to have police support during certain vulnerable periods of time,” said David Sisco, owner of Designer’s Circle and Vintage Jewelers on Church Street.

Recently, someone broke into Sisco’s businesses in the middle of the night, and he worries who will help him if it happens again if police aren’t patrolling.

“How am I going to defend myself? Because I’m going to come here. I’m driving down here to see what’s happening,” Sisco said. “With or without police, I have to come. If I have to meet and encounter someone who is robbing my store, I’m not going to have anything to protect myself, and yet what am I to do?”

Sisco is asking the Burlington City Council to revisit the June resolution requiring Burlington police to cut staffing by 30 percent.

The Burlington Police Officers Association, the department’s employee union, tucked tons of the flyers with facts about the potential elimination of the midnight shift at homes throughout the Queen City, hoping to capture the attention of residents like Sisco.

The letter is titled: Facts You Should Know About Reducing Police Staffing in Burlington. The bullet points focus on the pending elimination of the midnight shift — as cuts through attrition continue. On Tuesday, the Burlington Police Commission recommended the council raise officer head count, rather than reduce the force from 105 officers to 74.

“Public safety is going to suffer with the reduction in staffing that we have, so we wanted to make people aware that the consequences of the vote from the city council will have a negative impact on public safety in the city,” said Tyler Badeau, the president of the Burlington Police Officers Association.

But Progressive City Councilor Brian Pine says the department isn’t properly evaluating all potential solutions and is presenting residents with an unfair ultimatum.

“I think what is being put out there is as the only option, that we would have no coverage, and I actually don’t think that that’s a fair way to have this conversation,” Pine said. “In many ways, I think that is putting fear into the hearts and minds of Burlingtonians in a way that is really unfortunate.”

Still, citizens say they’re concerned that without a midnight patrol, their safety is at risk.

“They are just important to have at any time of day to be honest,” said Burlington resident Jason Upton.

“It’s my feeling that most of the activity that we need them for is in the evenings, as I’ve seen from being in the area,” said Mary Maloney, who owns property in the Old North End.

Policing is a key point in the city’s upcoming mayoral race. Democratic candidate Mayor Miro Weinberger has largely opposed the sweeping cuts, while Progressive candidate Max Tracy continues to push for reform.

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