BURLINGTON, Vt. – Just hours after her appointment as Acting Chief of the Burlington Police Department, Deputy Chief Jan Wright lost the position when she disclosed that she also maintained a fake social media account to engage with the public.
Shortly after Mayor Miro Weinberger announced the resignation of Police Chief Brandon del Pozo at a press conference Monday, Wright told the mayor she had occasionally used a Facebook account under the pseudonym “Lori Spicer.” Wright said she used the account to engage citizens in discussion of police department policy and practice.
In a statement, Weinberger said: “While Deputy Chief Wright’s situation may be very different than Chief del Pozo’s, given the circumstances the department is facing, I found the failure to raise this issue with me in the lead-up to today to constitute a lapse in judgement.”
Weinberger said Deputy Chief Jon Murad would become acting chief.
Wright’s removal came minutes before Monday’s Burlington City Council meeting, where some called for Weinberger and other city officials to resign.
Charles Winkleman, who was taunted by del Pozo via the former chief’s anonymous Twitter account, claims Wright also contacted him anonymously and said del Pozo was “in his head” and that he “needed help.”
“Does that sound like a deputy who cares about mental health?” Winkleman said. “I’ve spent the last five months wondering if the police are following me or if I’m being monitored.”
Weinberger said he will ask City Attorney Eileen Blackwood to review Wright’s posts on the account in detail and report back by the end of the week. Deputy Chief Jon Murad will now serve as Acting Chief.
Weinberger also said he will be seeking to update and formally adopt the City’s social media policy in coming weeks.
Earlier on Monday, Mayor Weinberger joined city officials at the Burlington Police Headquarters to announce del Pozo’s resignation.
“With great sadness, I have accepted his decision,” Weinberger said.
Last week, del Pozo admitted to creating a Twitter account to taunt Winkleman in July. The specific details of the incident were kept under wraps for months even though the chief reported what he had done to Weinberger just a few weeks later.
“We were going to attempt to protect his medical privacy, particularly, given that this was a mental health condition,” Weinberger said. “Particularly given the stigma that attaches to mental health, especially in the public safety realm.”
According to Weinberger, a city-led investigation revealed the chief’s actions were caused by a mental health condition. The mayor said he placed del Pozo on a six week medical leave to seek treatment, before returning to the department in September.
Del Pozo attributed his behavior to a serious brain injury he suffered in a bike crash in 2018. In his resignation letter to the mayor, del Pozo said he looks back on his time with feelings of pride and accomplishment, specifically citing the city’s progress in reducing opioid deaths during his 4 years as chief. The mayor said del Pozo’s decision to resign was his.
“I believed he had considerable support, and there was a way forward but it would be a very painful route forward,” he said. “It would be one where he would face ongoing scrutiny and questioning.”