Weinberger looks to council elections to resolve BPD standoff

Published: Feb. 1, 2022 at 6:03 PM EST
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BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) - Burlington’s acting police chief plans to stay on the job despite seeing his appointment rejected last night by the City Council.

Continuing their monthslong feud with the mayor, the council’s Progressives Monday blocked the confirmation of Jon Murad as the Queen City’s top cop. But Murad and Mayor Miro Weinberger say they remain undeterred, calling Tuesday day one of rebuilding the department after its budget was defunded 30% last year by the council.

“How do we move forward? How do we continue to hold on? It’s a matter of willpower and a matter of support,” Murad said Tuesday in response to questions about leading his rapidly shrinking department. He says he continues to have support from his officers. “I have been telling them for 20 months to hold on because there is a path forward for us and I’m not going to cut and run on them.”

Following Monday’s 6 to 6 vote, Burlington Police Lt. My Nguyen posted a message on his personal Facebook page detailing the difficulties of serving in a department that’s hemorrhaging officers. Just in the last two weeks, he says three officers have given resignation letters, and that they can only take so much before they walk away. “Our only hope for stabilization and a morale boost was Jon Murad and we still can’t give him the permanent spot so we can stop the bleeding and start healing,” Lt. Nguyen wrote.

The Burlington Police association also released a statement strongly opposing the Progressive’s vote: “This city cannot provide the level of public safety the community deserves and the fault for that lies at the feet of the Progressive council.”

City Council President Max Tracy, P-Ward 2, says concerns from the officers are important but not the only concerns. “It’s certainly a concern but we can’t look at any one particular concern in isolation. as we have said before, we have a lot of public safety challenges and a strong need to transform our public safety system to address the race-based disparities that we continue to see plaguing our public safety system,” he said.

Mayor Weinberger is now looking to Town Meeting Day, when eight council seats are up for reelection, including four held by Progressives. The Democrat says the city needs a council focused on public safety and wants voters to remember that when they go to the polls. “It is something for voters to think about, for sure, as they go into the ballot boxes this March. Councilors have made it very clear where they stand on these public safety issues and I hope voters are paying attention,” Weinberger said.

City officials say the search for a new chief will continue. The mayor says he will decide later whether he will be bringing Murad’s appointment back to the council.

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