Weinberger defends enhanced police presence following weekend of violence

Published: Aug. 18, 2022 at 6:12 PM EDT
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BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) - Burlington Mayor Miro Weinberger Thursday defended the use of state troopers downtown following last weekend’s shooting that injured two people. It comes at the same time as an unrelated officer-involved shooting and use-of-force incident has reignited the ongoing feud between the mayor and Progressives over police policy.

Vermont troopers assisted the short-staffed Burlington Police following Saturday morning’s double-shooting downtown, the 20th gun incident of the year.

“Used to feel a lot safer. Lately, it just seems like there’s been a lot of crazy stuff happening at night and I don’t know why it’s happening but it’s definitely not the environment it used to be downtown,” said local resident Ben Chadwick. He says he now thinks twice before heading downtown the closer it gets to bars closing.

Others are more concerned when it is less crowded. “Just the nature of walking alone at night -- there’s also just some people that seem really unpredictable. You see a lot of people walking around yelling things pretty often down here and you don’t know -- they could be serious,” said Oliver Roberts of Burlington.

“You look back at the last decade, I can only think of a small number of times when we’ve had this type of late-night incident. And we’ve had six of them in 2022. We need to turn this around,” said Mayor Miro Weinberger. He says he welcomed the presence of 10 state troopers Saturday night who helped bolster BPD patrols following Saturday morning’s shooting that injured two people.

Burlington City Councilor Joe Magee, P-Ward 3, doesn’t think adding officers with guns is the solution to the problems the city is seeing. “The fact that we had 10 state troopers down on Church Street Saturday night is frightening for a lot of people in the community,” Magee said.

But the mayor, who has butted heads with Progressives on the council over police policy the past two years, pushed back. He says more police increase public safety, especially downtown late at night. “It has always been part of the way we have handled the late night crowded bar evenings -- is to have a significant police presence. And with less of that, I think we’ve seen much more violence in 2022. I welcome the state police’s help in turning that around,” Weinberger said. The mayor says they’ve worked hard to make Burlington a welcoming place this summer, holding 140 events downtown for people to enjoy.

This latest debate over the police comes in the wake of a very public use of force incident caught on camera Saturday involving a man yelling at BPD officers and ignoring warnings. They reacted by pushing him and tackling him to the ground. Community members, including Progressives on the council, have pushed back at what they say is a lack of de-escalation tactics by police.

Weinberger says he believes the officers acted appropriately. “When the police are acting within policy, within their training, when they need to act to enforce our laws that we need enforced, sometimes they are going to need to use force. And I think we need to accept that using force is part of their job and that’s what I saw there. I think they did what they needed to do,” Weinberger said.

The Burlington Police Commission in the coming weeks is expected to take a look at that use of force incident. An ordinance giving the commission the ability to be more transparent about their work has been on hold until Burlington hires a new city attorney.

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