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Police reform continues to be major topic at Burlington mayoral debates

Published: Feb. 5, 2021 at 11:29 PM EST
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BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) - Another day, another debate as candidates looking to become Burlington’s mayor discuss the city’s top issues in a forum hosted by Town Meeting TV and Seven Days on Friday evening.

The debate was contentious as candidates get closer to election day and continue to prove why they believe they are the right person for the job. Police reform continues to be the most discussed issue -- especially ahead of a city council vote on Monday on the Mayor’s proposal to increase the number of officers and include more civilian roles at the Burlington Police Department.

“On Monday you have a chance to fix this mistake will you take responsibility for that mistake and will you act on Monday to fix it?” says Burlington Mayor Miro Weinberger.

Mayor Weinberger calling the City Council’s decision to cut the police force last summer a mistake and jeopardizes public safety. But Council President Max Tracy says it was the right move and that the force needs more independent oversight and unarmed officers.

“I think we need to lean into efforts to transform our public safety system building out unarmed roles to be sure we are doing everything we can to address the direct social needs within our community,” says Tracy.

Mayor Weinberger vetoed the oversight proposal -- claiming that it would have made the policing issue worse. The Mayor’s new public safety plan also includes new unarmed roles, but the Council President still would not say if he would vote in support of the measure.

“Councilor Tracy, mayors need to act -- mayors need to be decisive -- mayors need to do things this proposal has been in front of you since December, we’ve presented it to you in detail in December, and you still can’t tell us an answer whether you are going to support it on Monday night, that’s unbelievable,” said Weinberger.

Tracy responded with, “Like I said I provided an answer I don’t support the increase in the officer caps I do support the other elements we may be bringing some amendments to bring that resolution more in line with that vision. I think that’s a fair answer I think we have different visions for public safety.”

Independent Mayoral candidate Ali Dieng was also asked where he stands on the Mayor’s proposal. He’s pushed for a study to determine how many officers are needed on the force, but it’s been voted against.

”I am always going to strive for process. We do not know how many police officers we need and until that study is done I will not be voting to add more police officers,” says Dieng.

The debate also had three other candidates looking for your vote on Town Meeting Day -- Haik Bedrosian, Will Emmons, and Kevin McGrath.

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