BURLINGTON, Vt. – A new report on use of force released by the Burlington Police Department shows that incidents have decreased 40 percent since 2012.
Over the past year, Burlington police have come under scrutiny from concerned residents and elected officials for several use of force incidents.
Last week, the Vermont Attorney General’s Office announced they won’t press charges against Officer Cory Campbell for his use of force against Douglas Kilburn in March.
According to the report, less than one percent of incidents the department has responded to since 2012 have involved force.
“That’s not because people are getting more obedient”, said Chief Brandon del Pozo. “Our cops are getting better at being persuasive, using teamwork, letting people know the consequences and taking steps to forestall the use of force.”
The report shows that officers largely used physical force, and when a weapon was used, it was most likely to be pepper spray or a taser.
In a New York Times op-ed earlier this week, Chief del Pozo reflected on how officers view their firearms and the changes that need to be made.
“We tell officers that a knife or a shard of glass is always a lethal threat and that they should aggressively meet it with a lethal threat in return”, del Pozo wrote. “Doing so forecloses all of the better ways to communicate with a person in crisis.”
The chief said he understands the concern surrounding use of force incidents that have come to light via body cam video, but believes the report offers a bigger picture.
“What people fixate on, and perhaps emotionally rightfully so, is an incident where a police officer walks up to someone without saying a word and pushes them and that person gets hurt”, del Pozo said. “What we need to do is put that in the context of 200,000 incidents over six years that go on, for the most part, very successfully.”
On March 11th, Officer Cory Campbell was called to UVM Medical Center for reports that Kilburn was acting irate while visiting his wife. An altercation resulted in Kilburn punching the officer, who then punched Kilburn three times. Kilburn was left with fractures to his jaw and skull. He was found dead a few days later.
A special committee established by the Burlington City Council to review police department policy is set to give their final recommendations at the end of the month. Chief del Pozo said if the committee took a look at the report, they’d “have to agree” that the department is “striving for perfection and being honest”.