The largest cities in both Vermont and our portion of New York are searching for a permanent police chief. Burlington and Plattsburgh are encountering similar difficulties, with elected officials in both communities citing flawed search processes.
Ward 8 Councilor Jane Stromberg is one of the six Burlington City Council Progressives who said Thursday that they’d reject Acting Chief Jon Murad‘s appointment as permanent police chief. Stromberg, who has also served on the Queen City’s police chief search committee, said Friday that she doesn’t want the effort in the last 18 months or so to re-envision the role of law enforcement in the community to have been for nought.
“Transformative policing doesn’t happen overnight,” she said. “It’s just kind of that political will, and it’s that patience that it takes to really pick the people that we need in these positions to lead by example.”
Councilor Ali Dieng is the Queen City’s lone independent on the council, and his mind may not be made up yet. He’ll spend the next three days polling people in Ward 7.
“Right now, I’m just waiting to hear from as many people from my constituency about his appointment and how I should be voting on Monday,” Dieng said.
In mid-December, the Plattsburgh Common Council rejected Mayor Chris Rosenquest’s police chief appointment, Vermont State Police Capt. Michael Manley. Some of the council members felt left out of the interview process that helped bring Manley’s appointment to them, according to Councilor Elizabeth Gibbs.
“Going forward, I don’t know what’s going to happen next,” Gibbs said. “But I hope that the mayor will recognize that the entire council wants to be involved in what happens next.”
Gibbs mentioned Plattsburgh Police Lt. Jarrod Trombley as a possibility for chief. As the department’s highest-ranking officer, Trombley is serving as the Lake City’s de facto acting chief.
The mayor has ruled him out as the permanent leader, however. Rosenquest wrote on Friday:
“My office will continue to work with the current members of the Police Department and council to find a suitable chief who can bring the necessary experience and culture shift to the City of Plattsburgh Police force. I remain committed to appointing an external candidate to run this department.”
Burlington’s position has been advertised with an annual salary range of $119,451 to $132,947, which Mayor Miro Weinberger has argued is too low. Plattsburgh’s position has a listed salary range of $111,000 to $124,000.
Burlington has gone without a permanent chief since Brandon del Pozo resigned in December 2019. His departure followed his admission to having done two things: using a burner social media account to taunt a department critic and lying to the media about having done so.
Plattburgh’s last permanent chief, Levi Ritter, resigned last April after being named as a defendant in a lawsuit against the city alleging excessive use of force. Prior to his resignation, then-Mayor Colin Read had placed Ritter on administrative leave in December 2020.