Burlington, VT- Mayor Miro Weinberger and the Meli family have released a joint statement on the lawsuit settlement related to a 2018 police use-of-force incident.
In September 2018, then Sergeant Jason Bellavance responded to an incident outside a downtown bar in Burlington. Police body cam footage of the response shows Bellavance shoving Jeremie Meli into a wall with full force. The video shows Meli collapse to the ground, unconscious. Jeremie’s two brothers, Charlie and Albin, were arrested in the incident.
On Tuesday, Burlington’s city council voted to settle a lawsuit filed by the Meli family that alleged the use-of-force was excessive. Details of the settlement released today show the Meli family will receive $750,000.
In a joint statement written by the Meli family and Mayor Weinberger that was released on Friday they wrote:
“The Melis are longstanding and valued members of the Burlington community, and this incident was an important catalyst for change. In the years since the Mayor issued an Executive Order requiring a Mayoral review of all use-of-force incidents that result in any injury or raises significant public concern, the City comprehensively rewrote the Burlington Police Department’s Use-of-Force Policy to include much greater emphasis on de-escalation, and the Department now releases body-worn camera footage to the public after use-of-force incidents. The City is grateful to the Melis for their contributions to this progress and is committed to working with them on continued efforts to improve public safety and foster belonging in Burlington. At a recent meeting between the Mayor and the Melis, the Meli brothers described the harm they experienced and their wish to support positive change, especially involving police interactions with people of color. The Mayor expressed his sincere regret for the lingering harm this incident caused their family and gratitude to the Melis for their desire and commitment to engage the City in these important issues. Both parties appreciated the opportunity for meaningful dialog, which was an important and restorative step forward for the family. The City and the Meli family are pleased to have resolved the litigation and look forward to continued, constructive conversations about a just and inclusive future for Burlington.”
$500,000 of the settlement will come from the city’s insurer, and the remaining amount comes from the
In September 2020, Burlington’s city council voted to enter a separation agreement with Bellavance that exchanged his resignation for three year’s salary of $300,000.