Backlash leads Burlington mayor to return control of police study to racial equity director

Local News

Burlington’s mayor is backtracking from what he now says was a mistake in deciding who would oversee a study of the police department.

Last month, the City Council approved a contract with a Virginia-based nonprofit group for nearly $100,000 to look into who, what, where and how the BPD polices. In doing so, the council members also granted the city’s Racial Equity, Inclusion & Belonging Office the authority to oversee that contract.

However, earlier this week, Weinberger took that authority away from Director of Racial Equity Tyeastia Green and offered it to Darren Springer, the general manager of Burlington Electric

The shift was immediately criticized. Green is a woman of color. Springer, who has acknowledged he has limited experience in police reform or racial justice efforts, is white.

“I’m not the expert; I’m not attempting to be the expert,” Springer told the commission. “I don’t think that’s the role that I’m supposed to play here. I do have significant experience managing [Request For Proposal] processes, managing significant contracts, ensuring deliverables are provided, and I’ve had a number of experiences working with consultants.”

Weinberger said he made the move out of what he called a desire for neutrality in how the study would be managed.

“I asked Darren Springer to consider taking on this assignment of managing this contract,” the mayor said Wednesday. “It was not something he in any way sought out. He did it out of commitment to the city and commitment to the administration to try to be a problem-solver.

“Any criticism about the way this unfolded — which, I think, there has been plenty of it and is fair — should be directed towards me, not towards Darren,” the mayor said.

Weinberger added that the shift revealed his own bias — and reflected the wrong priorities.

“I got it wrong, and it was problematic,” he said.” By getting it wrong, I think I belied my strong support and belief and appreciation for Tyeastia Green as our Director of Racial Equity, Inclusion & Belonging. I think we’re very fortunate to have her here.”

The mayor said that he asked Green Tuesday night to re-take oversight of the study and that she agreed. The study’s findings are expected to guide future decisions about police staffing levels, which the City Council voted last June to reduce by 30% through attrition.

Green declined to comment for this story.

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