Burlington City Council blocks mayor’s police chief pick

The search for a new Burlington police chief will continue.
Published: Jan. 31, 2022 at 11:53 PM EST|Updated: Feb. 1, 2022 at 6:20 AM EST
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BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) - The search for a new Burlington police chief will continue after the City Council voted Monday night to reject Acting Police Chief Jon Murad’s nomination.

After more than four hours of public comments and deliberation, councilors voted in a 6 to 6 tie against hiring Murad for the post. Progressives on the council have been feuding with Mayor Miro Weinberger, D-Burlington, throughout the hiring process and have said they do not want Murad. However, most residents that spoke Monday disagreed with that stance.

“Acting Chief Murad embraces reform and recognizes its importance in this city’s future,” said Shirin Hart, a member of Burlington’s Police Commission. She said there have been times she’s disagreed with Murad, but still believes he’s the right man for the job. “I’ve appreciated his willingness to be self-critical and recognize areas of improvement in himself, this area, and his officers.”

Others speaking at Monday’s council meeting agree. “Appointing a permanent chief, one who can serve with the support of this community is critical at this time,” said Colin Hilliard on behalf of the Burlington Business Association. “It is critical to the rebuilding of our police department which has been decimated by lost police officers. It’s critical to the future of the downtown we all love.”

However, ongoing conversations about Weinberger’s refusal to expand the search have been a major point of contention. Some people opposed to Murad’s appointment say it’s not just about him as a person, but the process that got us here.

“There has been a crisis in leadership and failure in public confidence. We need to come together as a community in a spirit of partnership and compromise to build a vision for the police department we can all get behind,” said Brian Cina, a Burlington resident who compared this to the last search for a school superintendent. “Then we need to find someone who can do that.”

Others who are opposed say Murad is unwilling to look at police reform or acknowledge racial disparities.

“Given this historic moment, in which the desire for significant reform is so deeply held,” said Stephanie Seguino, a member of Burlington’s Police Commission. “I regret that I cannot support the mayor’s nomination for acting Chief Murad.

Mayor Weinberger called Monday’s vote a missed opportunity to strengthen the police department. In the meantime, he says Murad will continue to serve as acting chief.

“It is my sincere hope that at some point soon, a majority of the Council joins us in this critical work,” said Murad in a statement.

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