Civic leaders speak out against Burlington ballot measure on police oversight
BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) - More than a dozen community leaders gathered in Burlington on Thursday to urge residents to vote no on a measure that would create an independent police oversight board.
The proposed charter change will be on the March Town Meeting Day ballot as the result of a citizen petition, meaning it was not approved by the City Council and mayor.
The measure would create a new city department that would investigate alleged misconduct in the police department and dole out discipline.
Supporters say the panel will make the police department more accountable to the public.
Mayor Miro Weinberger, D-Burlington, strongly opposes the idea, fearing it will undermine the efforts to rebuild police ranks. He gathered business and civic leaders to urge residents to reject the charter change.
“We cannot support a charter change that would have the potential of further diminishing the Burlington Police Department’s ability to respond to violence in our emergency department or hospital. I greatly fear this measure would put our staff at further risk,” said Dr. Stephen Leffler, the president of the UVM Medical Center.
“We think it’s a risky experiment and that it will serve as an impediment in hiring and retaining those who serve our community,” said Catherine Davis, the president of the Lake Champlain Chamber of Commerce.
Progressives in support of the measure have said this is a more democratic way to implement oversight of the police department, root out bad cops and protect minorities and vulnerable populations from police abuse.
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