Acting Burlington Police Chief Jon Murad said Wednesday night that Burlington’s new budget and a new contract with the police union should help the department as it works to rebuild its ranks.

However, he acknowledged, the department’s lean times aren’t over yet.

The department has decreased in size from 92 sworn officers in June of 2020 to 61 last month, according to Murad’s presentation to the Burlington Police Commission.

Murad said the number of officers in the department will continue to shrink this year.

“I know of at least two additional departures that will occur in the short term, one of them a retirement who is already not with us,” he said. “He will be off our books in early September. Another individual probably also off our books in early September, and then another — if not in September, then certainly by October.”

Murad is hopeful that as the department rebuilds — perhaps by hiring officers away from other departments — it’ll have more of an ability to place officers in specialized positions.

One area is school resource officers.

“The loss of those school resource officers has been detrimental with regard to some of the ongoing criminal activity that we’ve seen around the city,” the acting chief said. “Because that was a key component of how we related to certain parts of the community and forged strong relationships.”

Murad’s presentation showed that the city’s total incident volume so far this year is above last year’s level but below the levels of each year from 2017 through 2020.

Police Commissioner Suzy Comerford said many Burlingtonians have given up on calling the police outside of immediate emergencies.

“I live on Wells Street, and this Monday, for the fourth time, several of my neighbors had their tires slashed,” she said. “And now people are thinking about moving.”

Murad agreed that this year’s incident volume is deceptively low, but that staffing makes it difficult to meet the demands for a police response.

He also noted that the Queen City is averaging one gunfire incident every other week so far this year, which drains resources that might otherwise be used to investigate property crimes and other offenses.

“The ability to deploy detectives or officers on the road to the kinds of calls you’re describing is essentially zero,” Murad said. “I believe we had three officers on the road today, and so three officers on patrol — the idea of putting one of them in a specific area is very difficult.”