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New report recommends changes to the Burlington Police

Published: Aug. 13, 2021 at 2:43 AM EDT|Updated: Aug. 13, 2021 at 5:24 AM EDT
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BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) - A new report evaluating the Burlington Police and local residents’ perceptions of them, calls for better training for first responders, more access to community services, and better communication between the BPD and the community.

In the wake of cuts to defund the police last year, the city hired a consulting firm to evaluate the department and come up with ways to improve public safety operations. On Thursday, a joint committee made up of the Police Commission and Public Safety Committee approved the report’s executive summary.

“What does a safe community mean to you? What does a healthy community mean to you? How do we go about obtaining these visions,” said Charis May Hnin, a principal at Talitha Consults. She said their findings are a result of town halls, workshops, and surveys. Thursday, the city released the comprehensive report to the public.

“We made a list of ten documents to release to the public, the RFP, Talitha’s initial proposal, their work plan, a PowerPoint of their workplan,” Stephanie Seguino, a Burlington Police Commission member, said of what was posted online.

In the city’s summary, they said the purpose of the assessment was to strengthen the police department’s ties with the community. Data in the report from Talitha Consults shows officers are fourth on the list of who people would call during an emergency. They trail behind EMS services, the fire department, and family or friends.

“There’s going to be some fumbles from the city side or the process of risking, but give some grace to all those involved,” Hnin said about the process going forward. “We all want a happier and safer community.”

From the results came four major recommendations, including better training for first responders, more access to community services, and better communication between the BPD and the community. While Talitha Consult’s contract with the city is done. Charis May Hnin said the report is just the first step.

“Continue to work and partner with your residents,” Hnin said. “Wrestle with it. Being in a community together is messy.”

A recent spree of shootings and other violence downtown has left many Burlington businesses and residents questioning whether last year’s police cuts left the department with inadequate staffing for critical overnight coverage. Last week, the City Council in a split vote rejected hiring more armed officers until council members had more time to review the results of the Talitha report.

Now that the results are finalized, the city plans to send them to CNA Corporation, another outside firm the city is working with to evaluate the Burlington Police Department.

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