Just before the Burlington City Council approved a budget resolution calling for a 30 percent reduction in uniformed officers, the president of the Burlington Police Officer Association said understaffing is already making it more difficult to meet the city’s public safety needs.
Tyler Badeau said Monday the union supports shifting the response to cases that involve mental illness to trained clinicians. But, right now, he said, it can take hours to get one on scene.
“Remove that type of service from the hands of the police department where we can take a more supportive role in that,” Badeau said. “But the need for more clinicians does not equate to the need for less officers.”
Early Tuesday morning, Burlington City Council approved cutting 30 uniformed officer positions in the 2021 budget. That includes 18 officers already on the force, as well as the dozen or so current vacancies in the department.
“Present day to bring us to what City Council is proposing, it would drop us from 93 officers to about 75,” Badeau said.
The resolution that passed by a 9-3 margin would cut the department’s uniformed officer capacity from 105 to 74. The council intends to use the savings to pay for various social and economic justice initiatives. Community members and the Racial Justice Alliance had pushed for the 30 percent cuts.
The resolution also calls for moving parking enforcement from police to the Department of Public Works, and requires the Burlington and South Burlington school districts to cancel contracts authorizing full-time School Resource Officers.
Burdeau adds that the clamor for cutting the department’s budget, alongside other recent events have significantly impacted officers’ morale.
“Morale is not good, it’s the worst I’ve seen in about 13 years,” Burdeau said. “It’s unfortunate to see the working conditions that they’re enduring, it’s not good.”