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Chief pushes plan to retain, recruit Burlington police with COVID relief funds

Published: Sep. 24, 2021 at 5:49 PM EDT
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BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) - A plan to boost retention rates and improve recruitment at the Burlington Police Department has been sent to the City Council.

According to the memo, Acting Burlington Police Chief Jon Murad hopes to use federal coronavirus relief funds to provide incentives to boost recruitment efforts and keep officers from leaving the department.

“I don’t think anyone wants us to be smaller than we are,” Murad said.

According to a five-page memo sent to the City Council, Murad says the roster at the department is shrinking.

The memo states the number of officers has decreased from 92 in 2020 to just 68 now, of which only 65 can respond to calls.

“At 68 we can’t perform the kinds of services we have traditionally performed, we cannot answer our neighbors’ calls for service in the ways they have come to expect over 20 or more years,” Murad said.

Through the stabilization proposal, Murad hopes to use federal funding from the American Rescue Plan to provide incentives to officers who are currently on the force and to boost recruitment efforts as well.

Current officers would receive $16,000 over three separate payments, equalling over $1 million total.

An additional $150,000 would be needed to provide incentives for officers recruited by the Burlington Police.

“It’s a substantial incentive,” said Mayor Miro Weinberger, D-Burlington. “It amounts to about 10% of an officer’s annual salary per year. I think that is a reasonable step to take given the dire situation we are facing right now and I hope the council will agree.”

In June 2020, the City Council voted to cap the number of officers at 74. Mayor Weinberger says this decision has played a part in why officers are leaving.

“I think it’s totally reasonable for people to look at what is currently our policy and say, ‘I’m not sure that’s the department I signed up for. That’s not a department that has the kind of opportunities that I expected in my professional career,’” Weinberger said.

The City Council is expected to vote on this proposal during Monday’s meeting.

I did reach out to each of the members of the City Council who voted to cut the police force about this proposal but had not yet heard back when this story was published.

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