Monday evening marked the beginning of what could be a lengthy debate surrounding a possible Memorandum of Understanding between Burlington police officers and Homeland Security Investigations.

“if we hold federal agencies at arms length, when we act, my accountability to the people doesn’t go away, but my ability to know what’s going on and have a hand in that planning is impeded,” says Burlington Police Chief Brandon del Pozo.

del Pozo and Deputy Chief Jan Wright addressed the public and City Councilors about the proposed agreement.  It would give designated officers the same authority as HSI Special Agents.  

“The Burlington Police Department would have a voice and authority when it came to operational planning of a search warrant within the city,” says Wright.

del Pozo says the agreement would give his officers more man-power to tackle a crime they are mandated to by Vermont law, but have no additional funding, or resources for.

 “Homeland Security, the federal government has designated as the primary federal entity for investigating human trafficking, so as far as this is an unfunded mandate, this is a way to get some indirect funding and resources for that mandate,” says del Pozo.

Vermont ACLU Attorney Jay Diaz and members from Migrant Justice say Homeland Security Investigations has a notorious reputation and rocky past.

“That’s with regards to racial profiling, with regard to civil liberties, with regard to women’s rights,” says Diaz.  “Border Patrol has a very wide authority so, 100 miles from the border they have authority to search anyone and a lot of those times those searches can be without warrants.”

City Councilors have yet to sign this proposed memorandum.  BPD had an MOU with the federal agency in 2004 and in 2011.  Wright says both are still valid.