Murad says Burlington police are making progress on racial disparities in traffic stops

Local News

Burlington Police Acting Chief Jon Murad said Thursday the department still needs to work on racial disparities in use of force and arrests, but that officers are stopping and ticketing Black drivers at a lower rate than their share of the driving population.

In a presentation to the Ward 2 and Ward 3 Neighborhood Planning Assembly, Murad showed that Black drivers represent about 8% of drivers in Burlington. So far in 2021, however, they comprise 7.2% of the drivers in traffic stops and 5.6% of the drivers issued tickets.

A Ward Two resident expressed concern about an incident from this summer that took place while she was in a downtown store. Mayumi Cornell heard loud noises and stepped outside to find out where they were coming from.

“There was one gentleman that was beating on another person, and so I went back into the store and I asked them to call the police, and they said, ‘Well, they won’t come’,” Cornell said, adding that the attacker stopped after she went back outside and yelled at him. “Why would the people in the store think that the police would not respond to something of physical violence?”

“I can’t entirely answer that,” Murad replied. “But I do know that our delayed response has caused people not to report things as often, and I said to the Ward 5 (Neighborhood Planning Assembly) — my final plea of the evening was that I want to reverse that.”

The acting chief also noted that the BPD has just hired its first officer in nearly two years. He’s a probationary officer currently enrolled in the Vermont Police Academy in Pittsford. Murad expects the department to continue losing more officers than it brings aboard for at least another year before it can begin rebuilding its ranks.

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