City Council to hear Burlington police chief’s plea to get more cops on the beat

Published: Sep. 27, 2021 at 5:12 PM EDT
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BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) - As the number of officers at the Burlington Police Department continues to shrink, the acting police chief is calling for incentives for officers and new recruits. The City Council is expected to take up the topic Monday.

Ahead of that meeting, I spoke to city councilors about the memo from the acting police chief, as well as local business owners who say the shrinking police force is a serious concern.

“So if we go down to 50, what do you think is going to happen? What about 40?” business owner Charles Handy said.

The number of officers currently employed by the Burlington Police Department has fallen below the hard cap of 74 set by the City Council last summer.

“It seems to be nothing is really moving in the right direction,” Handy said. “They need to do something quick.”

To address the issue, Acting Burlington Police Chief Jon Murad sent a memo to the City Council requesting more than $1 million in federal funding be used to provide incentives for retention and recruitment, something Council President Max Tracy says is worth a conversation.

“It makes sense to reexamine both our retention efforts and bring in new officers to the BPD,” said Tracy, P-Burlington City Council.

The most recent survey conducted by the Burlington Police Officers Association states that of the 68 officers currently employed, more than half are looking to leave. Tracy says it’s important not only to keep current officers but to hire new ones, as well.

“Hopefully, like I said before, we’ll be able to bring those new recruits into a department that has undergone some change in terms of how we approach mental health calls for service, how we approach issues like community oversight,” Tracy said.

As the number of officers continues to shrink in the city, Handy asks at what point does that change?

“Something is going to happen and somebody is going to get hurt and everybody is going to say, ‘Oh, we should have done something.’ Now we have the time to do it; we should do it,” he said.

Tracy says he’s expecting a final report out this week from that city-commissioned study into what changes make sense for the police department.

A draft of that report obtained by Seven Days states the department needs between 76 and 83 sworn officers.

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