BURLINGTON, Vt. – As protesters continue to call for the firing of three Burlington Police officers involved in use-of-force incidents, an attorney for the officers’ union said investigations found no “significant wrongdoing” and the cases have been closed.
Richard Cassidy, attorney for the Burlington Police Officers Association, said that if the city reversed course and terminated the officers, it would be a violation of the union’s collective bargaining agreement with the city and likely result in litigation.
“The conduct of officers Cory Campbell and Joseph Corrow, as well as the conduct of Sgt. Jason Bellavance was reviewed by the city,” Cassidy said. “The city’s decision was to impose a low level of discipline, and the employees and the Union did not contest that discipline.”
Cassidy said that if an arbitrator determined that no further discipline could be imposed, the city would be “ordered to reinstate the officers, or pay the equivalent of their salary and benefits for the rest of their careers.”
Mayor Miro Weinberger said he’s discussed the demands with protest organizers.
“Varying degrees of discipline were handed out with the different incidents, and that’s the process we have,” Weinberger said. “The city attorney has released memos, and we have shared this information with protesters about the limitations within the law of reopening and revisiting that.”
Weinberger said he’s open to discussing future changes to officer discipline, adding that he believes it’s “problematic” that the police chief alone has a formal role in disciplining officers.
Earlier this week, hundreds of people gathered at Battery Park and marched to Burlington City Hall, where organizers once again called for the three officers to be fired.
“We want those three cops fired,” said Harmony Edosomwan. “Jason Bellavance, Cory Campbell, Joseph Corrow. We want all of them fired.”
It came one day after the arrest of a Winooski man who was armed with a rifle while lurking around a crowd of protestors over the weekend.
Jordan Atwood, 25, was arrested after investigators determined that a 2019 case against him included pre-trial conditions not to possess firearms. Police said prior to that knowledge, Vermont’s status as an open-carry state left them no option but to monitor Atwood.
Weinberger released a statement Tuesday voicing concerns about the safety of protesters, police and the public. He said a rock was thrown at one officer and that protesters had blocked emergency vehicles.
“If the demonstrators wish to continue to protest in the street, I urge them to coordinate such actions with the City so that their safety, and the safety of the public, can be assured,” Weinberger said.
For more than a week, protesters have gathered to demand that officers involved in the shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha, Wisconsin, which left him paralyzed and in critical condition, be held to account. They’ve also invoked the names of George Floyd, Michael Brown and Breonna Taylor, other Black individuals who died during encounters with police.
On Wednesday, Weinberger applauded Atwoord’s arrest and officers’ work on the case. His remarks were criticized by organizers of Monday’s protest who said they suggested protests have been largely violent in nature.
“That was a slap in the face,” said Edosomwan. “We have been peaceful, we the community have been peaceful. It is the cops that are the danger to us, and that is why we’re here today.”
In the wake of Atwood’s arrest, protest organizers emphasized that people trained in de-escalation tactics are present at events and dispersed throughout the crowd. They also urged people not to interact with anyone criticizing their remarks.
- Weather Blog: A dry and sunny forecast remains into the work week
- Skytracker Forecast (September 20, 2020)
- Southern Vt & NH Regional Forecast
- Northeast Kingdom Regional Forecast
- Champlain Valley, Northern NY & Montreal Regional Forecast