Burlington mayor says city budget will include “funding to advance racial justice”

Local News

BURLINGTON, Vt. – Mayor Miro Weinberger detailed the city’s next steps on policing and racial justice Wednesday afternoon.

“My budget submission to city council on Monday will include funding to advance racial justice in Burlington and contribute to the local and national efforts we are engaged in to improve policing and public safety,” Weinberger said.’

This week, hundreds of Burlingtonians weighed in during public comment periods of board of finance and police commission meetings, which Weinberger characterized as “part of an overdue and much needed reckoning about policing and safety”.

Details on how much money will be backing these efforts and what specific areas it’ll go toward will come at Monday’s city council meeting.

Weinberger added that he’s been watching what other cities across the country are doing, but made it clear that dismantling the police department is not on the table. The Minneapolis City Council signed a pledge to do so, and Council President Lisa Bender visited Burlington as a keynote speaker for the 2019 BTV Housing Summit.

“Each city travels its own unique path, each has its own journey, I do not see it being on the table,” Weinberger said. “To be really clear, I’m not going to be proposing dismantling the police department on Monday, I don’t think that’s warranted here.”

An ongoing effort to update the Burlington Police Department’s use of force policy dates back to June of last year, when city council asked a special committee to make new recommendations.

An updated draft of the policy was released last Friday, which includes new language on de-escalation and also requires officers to intervene in cases of excessive force:

At Wednesday’s Burlington Police Commission meeting, the details of the new policy were still being worked out.

Commissioner Randall Harp wondered why one particular sentence was removed from the draft.

“The sentence is ‘Furthermore, the use of force must either be in response to resistance or to protect themselves, and or other officers or people,” Harp said. “That sentence was omitted from the later draft, and I’m just wondering why.”

Deputy Chief Jon Murad said it’s because there are other situations, like protecting property, that might require use of force.

“Preventing somebody from shattering a store window or breaking a car window, those are legitimate acts of use of force to prevent a crime from being committed,” Murad said. “As long as the level of force is reasonable to the goal.”

The commission plans to continue their discussion of the most recent draft next week. It was originally scheduled to be discussed on Tuesday, but over 70 members of the public called in during the public comment period. The commission decided to postpone the discussion, and haven’t finished yet.

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