Burlington City Council to vote on police cuts next week

Published: Jun. 23, 2020 at 12:25 AM EDT
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The Burlington City Council took one final look Monday night at the 2021 proposed budget before a planned vote next week.

The budget presented by Mayor Miro Weinberger last week includes a $1.9 million cut to the Burlington Police Department, which is 10% of the department’s budget.

At Monday’s budget work session, Acting Police Chief Jon Murad gave a presentation before the council explaining that a budget cut to the department would likely force it to get rid of positions like the street crime unit, a domestic violence prevention officer and school resource officers.

"I don’t want that to fall by the wayside, acting as if they are budgetary numbers and not people who have sacrificed a lot in their short careers for this city," Murad said. "Somebody has to answer those calls. The men and women of the Burlington Police Department have been doing so and will continue to do so, but they can’t do more and more with less and less."

Murad says there are currently 91 sworn officers.

Weinberger is proposing a 10% police budget cut, but protesters and the Vermont Racial Justice Alliance are demanding a 30% reduction.

If the council approves a 30% budget cut, Murad says the department will have two options: reduce services or cut overnight coverage. In order to achieve the 30%, 12 currently empty positions would be eliminated and 18 police officers would be let go.

"A 30% cut means that we go to 75, of those 75. Eight have to stay at the airport," Murad said. "That leaves the city with 67, and of these 67, 15 are supervisors, which leaves us with 52."

Some councilors continued pushing for a 30% reduction of the police force and the removal of school resource officers.

"I do support taking police officers out of the schools," said Perri Freeman, P-Burlington City Council. "I think it’s completely inappropriate. I think there’s an incredible amount of research on the school-to-prison pipeline and the harm that having this kind of interaction in our schools kind of precipitates.”

Murad says due to a union seniority rule, if the department does end up having to let officers go, the youngest and newest officers would be the first to go.

The council will vote on Weinberger’s proposed budget next Monday. They must have it finalized by July 1, and it will go into effect that day.

The Burlington Police Commission will hold a virtual meeting Tuesday night at 6 p.m. Murad will talk about what budget cuts to the department would mean. This comes after a recent change to the department's use-of-force policy.