Can Burlington city leaders find common ground on policing policy?

Published: Sep. 30, 2021 at 5:39 PM EDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) - The death of George Floyd in May 2020 started a nationwide conversation on policing. Burlington was no exception.

One year ago, protesters demanded the city improve oversight of its police officers and be more transparent with the public.

A new resolution at City Hall tackles those issues.

City officials and the City Council are trying to find common ground on police oversight. This new resolution would give the Burlington Police Commission more say when it comes to citizen complaints and officer discipline. The main objective is to improve trust between police and the people.

Protestors occupied Battery Park in Burlington for more than a month last year looking for increased oversight on policing. That spurred the City Council to attempt a change in the city’s charter creating a board of citizens that would have the authority to discipline officers accused of misconduct. The board would also have had the ability to fire an officer, reduce their rank or suspend them, and would be able to investigate a range of complaints occurring in the police department.

But Mayor Miro Weinberger vetoed it, saying it would continue the dismantling of the Burlington Police Department and compromise the city’s ability to ensure public safety.

Now, the City Council’s Public Safety Committee is proposing a resolution to give the existing police commission increased powers of police oversight, which does not require voters’ approval.

The proposal is for the city attorney to draft a new ordinance by November which would give the police commission the ability to manage citizen complaints of police conduct.

It would allow the commission to:

  • Review all civilian complaints of alleged police misconduct
  • Have complete access to department documentation of the incident including documents and videos
  • Request that the chief investigate incidents or assign an independent investigator
  • Recommend officer discipline to the chief

If the police chief and commission cannot agree on discipline or remediation, the case goes before a board that will make a decision. The mayor will sit on that board along with some city councilors and others.

Progressive City Councilor Zoraya Hightower, who is on the Public Safety Committee, says this is an important step but there is still work to do in terms of changing the city’s charter in the future.

“I think that this is good both for the community in terms of having a chance to push that accountability but also for the police department in terms of building back trust and just for internal issues that may be happening,” Hightower said.

This resolution still needs to clear two committees before it reaches the full council for a vote.

Of course, another element of police reform in the city is the council’s vote to cap the number of officers at 74.

But by all accounts, morale is low on the force and its numbers have now fallen below that cap to just 68.

Related Stories:

Burlington City Council approves $10K bonuses for officers

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

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

Burlington Police Dept. assessment finds deficiencies, staffing issues, racial bias

ACLU accuses Burlington leaders of misleading residents about crime

New report recommends changes to the Burlington Police

Burlington police staffing guidance expected in pending report

Authorities say Vermont facing police recruitment, retention crisis

Burlington City Council rejects police force increase

Queen City business caught in the middle of shooting spree

Authorities say Vermont facing police recruitment, retention crisis

Burlington Police Commission urges council to make staffing changes

Weekend shooting incidents in Burlington raise new concerns over police staffing

Community members react to Burlington shootout

Safety escort program in the works to protect downtown Burlington workers

Burlington Police address ‘emergency tier system’ amid week of violence

Police and local businesses weigh in after night of crime in Burlington

Police investigate Church Street hammer attack

Police respond to stabbings, attacks near Leddy Park encampment

Expanding Vt. Criminal Justice Council aims to incorporate police reform efforts

Burlington officials say police defunding experiment will take time to yield results

Police release photos of Burlington shooting suspect; City Council faces scrutiny over cop cuts

Burlington Police share concerns as bars prepare for end of curfew

Burlington Police Department unveils new plan to prioritize calls

Burlington City Council rejects increasing police staffing

Police reform continues to be major topic at Burlington mayoral debates

YCQM: Jan. 31, 2021

Burlington’s police transformation czar weighs in on challenges

Burlington City Council postpones action on mayor’s public safety continuity plan

Weinberger addresses shrinking Burlington police force

Mayoral candidate proposes ballot question on falling number of police officers

Burlington mayoral candidates spar over role of police in 2nd debate

Queen City residents respond as loss of midnight patrol looms

Facing staffing cuts, Burlington Police present plan to deploy civilian patrol

Facing defunding mandate, Burlington Police propose eliminating midnight shift

Copyright 2021 WCAX. All rights reserved.