Burlington’s battle to choose a new police chief

Published: Jan. 28, 2022 at 5:48 PM EST
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BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) - Who will lead the Burlington Police Department?

In just three days, a policing showdown will be back in front of the Burlington City Council. They will decide whether to confirm Acting Chief Jon Murad as the new full-time chief.

Half the City Council is made up of Progressives, and they have all come out against the confirmation of Murad.

That gives the administration the weekend to see if they can convince councilors to confirm the chief, however, Progressives say they don’t see that happening.

Mayor Miro Weinberger says he stayed true to the process he laid out months ago giving the council an ultimatum to change the job description and pay, or he would nominate one of the candidates coming out of the search.

However, one candidate took their name out of the hat, leaving just Acting Chief Jon Murad.

“The right choice for the city, the right choice for the Burlington Police Department, the right choice for public safety in this community, which I trust is something we all care about, is to vote to confirm the qualified committed candidate that we have before us,” said Weinberger, D-Burlington.

Weinberger says he will spend the weekend communicating with councilors about what is at stake with the upcoming Monday vote.

Several Progressives say they don’t see any last-minute assurances by the administration swaying their votes.

Progressive Councilor Jane Stromberg, who was on the police chief search committee, says with the lack of a robust search, she is willing to listen to any nonpartisan solutions this weekend, but she isn’t optimistic.

“Any option that falls into those categories is presented I will be happy to listen to it and be a part of that conversation. I don’t know what they could potentially bring forward at this point. I’m not sure what their options are and I do know where I stand,” Stromberg said.

Acting Chief Murad says it’s all about stabilization of the department after what he calls a 20-month-long job interview in which he has made many strides in the department, and he is willing to have conversations with councilors to convince them he’s the right man for the job.

“I am always willing to meet with anyone who’s got work that they want to accomplish... who wants to move forward together to find common ground. That’s always something that I’m willing to do and I’m eager to do that if that happens,” Murad said.

City business leaders would like to see a permanent chief in place. Burlington Business Association Executive Director Kelly Devine says she’s hearing from businesses that enough is enough and they don’t want to face another drawn-out search.

“I do think that someone from within the team, someone who is endorsed by the police union is probably our best bet to try to get some continuity here. And those are annual appointments, so it doesn’t mean you can’t revisit it. But we need someone in there doing the job. He’s the best candidate available and he is the right person for the time we are at right now,” Devine said.

From talking to councilors Friday, it was apparent that most of the Progressives have their minds made up, as of now, to block the confirmation at Monday’s meeting.

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