Burlington officials one step closer in search for new police chief

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Queen City Officials released the results of a survey they’re using to guide their search for a new Burlington police chief.

Since April 2020, Burlington Mayor Miro Weinberger has wanted the search process to include the city’s input. Due to Covid, the survey was put on pause. The search resumed more than a year a later. Community members had from May 14 to June 25 to provide their feedback. A total of 588 respondents participated.

“This is something of a new tool for the city – to be using these surveys – and we’re generally pleased with how many people are responding to them,” said Burlington Mayor Miro Weinberger.

But despite nearly 600 people doing so, some say the search committee, which consists of two members of city council and two police commissioners, could use more feedback.

“I do completely think it was not enough. This number isn’t even 10 percent of the total population of the city of Burlington. We are about 45,000 people,” said Burlington City Councilor Ali Dieng.

Dieng represents Ward 7, or the New North End, where a significant number of respondents said they are from. A similar amount of respondents also mentioned being from Wards 4, 5 and 6, largely the city’s South End. 

“Five-hundred-eighty-eight. From my perspective, that’s a lot of people answering a survey. You know the idea of surveys, you don’t get to everyone. Hopefully, you get to a broad enough group of people that gives you a sense of what the public is thinking.

Mayor Weinberger said, in addition to the survey, he and search committee also sat down with several communities, including members of the BIPOIC, Youth, and the LGTBQ+ advocates. 

“I think there is a history of distrust for LGBTQ folks and police…Of the folks that are reaching out to our support line, to work with our advocates, very few people are looking to work directly with police to resolve that harm,” said Mike Bensel.

Bensel is the Executive Director of Pride Center Vermont in Burlington. He says he wants a chief that uses supportive services for those that need help more than corrective action. A former Burlington resident agreed.

“It seems like police do two jobs and the jobs are really distinct from each other. You have one side that deals with imminent violence and people who clearly need help. And combining those two jobs into one group of people seems like produces, often, really unfortunately outcomes,” said Jordan Digirolamo.

According to the report, 96 percent of respondents mentioned wanting a police chief with the courage to have difficult conversations and who administers discipline only when necessary.

Acting Burlington Police Chief Jon Murad wasn’t available for interview or comment Thursday.

Mayor Weinberger says he wants people to know the job posting is available. He anticipates interviews to begin in a month. His goal is to have a new police chief appointed in the fall.

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