Burlington Police Commission urges council to make staffing changes

Published: Aug. 2, 2021 at 11:28 PM EDT|Updated: Aug. 3, 2021 at 2:55 AM EDT
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BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) - The Burlington Police Commission Monday recommended the City Council add additional police officers and support staff following concerns over short staffing during critical overnight hours.

The request is to temporarily increase the officer cap from 74 to 82 and approve the hiring of two city service liaisons, also known as CSLs.

The city says service liaisons respond to requests from police, other city departments and community members to intervene in situations including noise complaints and vandalism.

Community Affairs Liaison Lacey Ann Smith explains that CSLs have the capacity to provide services, like getting a homeless person to an appointment and even following up with them to make sure they’re getting the services they need.

The Police Commission says the CSLs can focus on prevention, which is necessary to combat crime.

“The underfunding of social services, in many ways, that has left us in the situation we’re in today. So, I think we have to think differently about the issue of crime and public safety and that there is a lot of unmet need in our community and that is at least partially contributed to the problems we’re facing... Hiring more officers isn’t necessarily the fix... It’s not the only solution,” said Stephanie Seguino, the Ward 6 member of the Burlington Police Commission.

Numerous late-night shootings and other crimes over the past several weeks have focused attention on staffing levels at the department. It comes after the City Council last year defunded the department’s budget to reallocate funding to social service programs. The mayor and council members have admitted the “experiment” could take several years before improvements are seen.

The Police Commission asked the council to act fast on the requests. The next City Council meeting is on Aug. 9.

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