As the City of Burlington looks to help the refugee crisis, will the police department follow suit and welcome refugees to the force?
Right now there are no refugees employed by the Burlington Police Department, but Chief Brandon del Pozo welcomes the idea.
“We would love to have people who speak different languages, come from different religions and come from different cultures it’s just going to help up police better when we deal with diverse populations,” said del Pozo.
Del Pozo took the reins of Burlington’s police force in 2015 after 18 years with the largest police force in the country, the NYPD.
“You know on one side cops from Lebanon and Egypt on the other side I had cops who were 7th generation and then we had South Asian Muslims who barely got into the United States and they were joining the police force and it made for a better police force,” said del Pozo.
According to the State Department Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration, around 300 refugees have resettled in Vermont in each of the last three years.
Del Pozo says while the refugee population isn’t getting smaller, a more diverse police force is a must.
“When we police those neighborhoods it helps us in terms of legitimacy, in terms of our ability to communicate, in terms of getting people to understand where we are coming from and comply with the police work we need done. We can speak the language and understand the culture and make bridges and connections with them,” explained del Pozo.
The department is currently revamping its recruitment process, one area of concern is the state’s police academy exam.
“About half of the white applicants who take the exam fail it but 90% of the applicants of color fail the exam and we want to get to the heart of it, why is it an exam that excludes so many people from the start,” said del Pozo.
Del Pozo encourages everyone, including new Americans to apply.
“The faster we can get over that hump and start getting everyone from Somalia-Americans to Nepalese to Tibetans in our police force the better we are going to be,” said del Pozo.
The department currently employs 100 sworn officers, but recently received a federal grant that allows for a force of 105 officers.