BURLINGTON, Vt. -The Burlington City Council has approved plans to enter a separation agreement with one of three city officers involved in use-of-force incidents in the past two years.
Mayor Miro Weinberger’s administration put forth the proposal, which includes the resignation of Sgt. Jason Bellavance. Bellavance would receive a separation pay of approximately three years’ salary ($300,000), as well as 18 months of health insurance.
Weinberger said that Bellavance’s case differs from two other Burlington officers that protestors have demanded be fired. The mayor said Bellavance’s actions didn’t follow expectations in place at the time, and his leadership position requires that he be held to a higher standard.
“I support a separation agreement with Sgt. Bellavance, both because his actions and position within the Department were significantly different than those of the other two officers,” Weinberger said. “I am announcing my final decision not to support separation agreements with officers (Joseph) Corrow and (Cory) Campbell.”
In September 2018, Bellavance was responding to a downtown altercation when police body-cam footage showed him shoving then 24-year-old Jeremie Meli in the chest with full force. According to a lawsuit filed over the incident, Meli was left unconscious from the blow.
An internal investigation by the department determined that while Bellavance did not use excessive or unlawful force, his actions were unnecessary under the circumstances. Weinberger said that Bellavance had been trained in “a number of de-escalation techniques” that he should have employed before using physical force.
“These findings are different from what occurred in the other two cases, where Officers Corrow and Campbell were not found to have violated departmental use of force training and policy that were in place at the time.”
The separation agreement would also provide Bellavance with three years’ service credit towards retirement, legal fees for review of the agreement, and release of claims.