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Burlington Police assessment released to public

Published: Oct. 1, 2021 at 5:54 PM EDT
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BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) - A long-awaited report that takes an in-depth look at policing practices in Burlington is now complete. And city officials are reacting to the nearly 150 recommendations in the assessment.

“This assessment is something that we’ve all been waiting a long time for. I think it has a lot of places that are going to be helpful guides for us as we seek -- as we always do -- to keep improving,” said Burlington Police Acting Chief Jon Murad.

There are nearly 150 recommendations in the CNA report, all centered around four key categories: Training within the department; racial and socioeconomic bias; recommendations around staffing; and other responses to policing in Burlington.

“Our training here is exemplary. I don’t think the report did as good a job as it could have done in looking into that. That may be that we didn’t service the report’s needs as well as we could have,” Murad said.

According to the report by the Virginia-based group, the headcount of officers at the department should be as high as 88, 75 of which would be available to respond to calls around the city. The report allows up to five officers as a gap for things like retirement. It also accounts for eight officers stationed at the airport.

“The staffing issue is a really important issue. It’s important for the future of the department. Certainly, it’s going to be back in front of the council very soon and I hope this time -- the fourth time they’ve debated this -- they land where the report says to land,” said Burlington Mayor Miro Weinberger.

City Councilor Zoraya Hightower, P-Ward 1, was among those who voted for the 30% staffing cuts last summer and has called for other reforms including independent oversight of officer conduct. She says she’s glad changes are already starting to happen.

“Such as the CSLs and CSOs. I think the next big thing that we’re going to have to push for, especially on crisis and mental health disparities, is that we do implement a CAHOOTS type model. I think that there’s definitely consensus around some of the recommendations, which hopefully will make it very easy to move -- at least some of them -- forward,” she said.

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