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Burlington Police Department unveils new plan to prioritize calls

Updated: May. 24, 2021 at 5:35 PM EDT
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BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) - Burlington Police are still trying to adjust to staffing cuts ordered last year. Monday, they unveiled what they are calling a priority response plan. The department says the plan allows police to better manage resources and makes clear to residents when they may have to wait for the police to respond.

“We do not want-- ever-- to leave people hanging on the other end of a line,” Burlington Police Acting Chief Jon Murad said.

Monday afternoon, Murad presenting the newly implemented Priority Response Plan. The plan will focus BPD resources as they say call volume is going up at a time when staffing is going down.

“The reasons for the implementation of this plan are simple-- it’s staffing and our diminishing headcount and our recent incident volume,” Murad said.

The staffing has been reduced after the Burlington City Council action to cut the number of sworn officers last summer. BPD will lose 30% of its staff through attrition by 2022.

The response plan is broken down into three priorities.

Priority one being serious incidents that will always get a response, such as violent crimes, overdoses, robberies and serious car accidents.

Priority two are things like disorderly conduct and mental health issues. Police say most of these calls require multiple police officers to respond.

That leaves priority three calls, such as noise complaints and vandalism, to not receive immediate attention until resources allow.

“In dividing the calls into these categories, our understanding was that we knew that as staffing decreased and as incident volume picked up, there would be times where we simply would not have resources to respond,” Murad said.

He says the largest gaps in staffing are at night, as with responses to the large parties and gunfire over the weekend. After a year of lockdown, Murad expects it could be a busy summer of responses to nightlife.

“We are prepared because we know they are going to happen,” he said.

I reached out to every member of the Progressive Party on the Burlington City Council. They are the ones who backed the idea of cutting the police department by 30%. No one was available for comment.

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