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Former Burlington police transformation director faces backlash from Black community

Published: Mar. 27, 2021 at 8:51 PM EDT
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BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) - The city of Burlington’s former director of police transformation defends a comment he made that is now drawing criticism from some members of the Black community.

Kyle Dodson, who was appointed by Mayor Miro Weinberger in September to find solutions to public safety and police reform, was quoted in a Seven Days article saying, “The community didn’t want transformation. Blacks and activists want revenge.”

Hours after the article was published, the Office of Racial Equity, Inclusion and Belonging released a statement, calling the comment “irredeemable, unconscionable, and harmful.”

Tyeastia Green, the city’s racial equity director, says the use of the word ‘revenge’ undermines, not only the work of Burlington activists, but the entire Civil Rights movement, Black Lives Matter, and the police-involved murder of George Floyd that sparked protests around the world last summer.

”The Black community has been traumatized from 1619 to present day. If we really wanted revenge, I think that it would be warranted but that’s not what we want because that’s not who we are,” Green said. “We want justice. We want to be treated fairly. we want to be treated equitably.”

In an interview with WCAX News on Friday, Dodson says that quote was taken out of context.

“It’s part of a larger commentary,” Dodson said.

Dodson acknowledges that the Black community wants justice but he thinks there are more productive methods.

“Given the horrific treatment of Blacks, it’s easy to see how justice looks like doing whatever Black and BIPOC folk need, even if it costs white people. Lots of Black and BIPOC folks think that the secondary consideration at best at this point in history. And I would argue that is justified given the treatment. Most human beings who have been subjected to what we’ve been subjected to would feel that way. Unfortunately, I just don’t believe that’s the most productive thing,” he said. “The victims forge the path for healing. And I’m just saying as a human being, above and beyond a Black man, I am compelled by what I’ve seen humans do throughout history: power of healing and reconciliation. It’s unfortunate if Blacks have to lead that, given what whites have done to us, but if that’s our lot, I think we should take it up.”

The Office of Racial Equity, Inclusion and Belonging has demanded Dodson apologize for the comment. It’s unclear if Dodson will do so.

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