Burlington, VT — City officials appear to be at odds over the Board of Police Commissioners’ fiscal year 2022 annual report.
Jabulani Gamache, co-chair of the Commission, presented the report to the Burlington City Council on September 19.
In the report, the Commission claims that while the City Council has responded and acted on recommendations presented to them, Mayor Miro Weinberger and Acting Chief of Police Jon Murad have not been responsive.
The Commission passed a motion that called for the creation of a group of community advisors to participate in the networking effort to assure a diverse set of applicants, however, nine months later, Murad has yet to respond and the group has not been formed.
The Commission also claims that there is missing data, especially related to race but they have received no responses about their concern.
In response to the concerns presented in the report, City Councilors questioned Mayor Weinberger about the lack of response from his administration.
“There should be responses,” said Councilman Gene Bergman of Ward 2. “I think that is unacceptable and expect that there be responses to each and every one of them. It would be really appropriate if there is a good reason why the Commission has not had a response to the request for the group of community advisors. The plan to eliminate the missing data is another item.
“There is no explanation as to why they declined the Center for Police Equity. Silence is not golden, and all the work they are doing is just incredible so they deserve a response, and we as a City deserve that and I would like to get that in substance as soon as possible.”
In response, Weinberger said that the administration “will be responding”. Weinberger mentioned that he appreciated the Commission’s commitment to the community and how much effort went into the report but also raised concerns he had.
“There are some characterizations and statements in the report that the administration does not agree with and some that we find inaccurate, and we will respond in writing to clarify and correct the record. To me, there is a very substantial disconnect between the report and what I am hearing from the community on a daily basis. The concerns I am hearing, and I believe you all have been hearing with increasing intensity over the last two years are the loss of 40% of our police officers, the significant rise in numerous types of serious crimes in many areas, and a concern that the public safety is deteriorating.
“This lengthy 13-page report is virtually silent on these public safety and policing issues. Further, the Commission’s 6 goals of FY 23 and beyond do not include any mention of rebuilding the department, reducing property crime, and gunfire incidents, reducing homelessness or reducing drug overdoses.
“Rebuilding our police department and restoring confidence in our city’s public safety is going to require collective community effort from all of us and certainly from the body that is appointed to help manage the police department, which is what the Police Commission is charged with doing. I must say that it is disappointing to see so little alignment between the state of priorities of the Commission and the very serious public safety challenges being articulated by the community. I sincerely hope that this changes dramatically and quickly in the months ahead.”
The disagreement between the parties carried over to Weinberger’s weekly public event at The Bagel Cafe and Deli at 1127 North Avenue. Commissioner Melo Grant attended the event on the 21st and raised concerns over Weinberger’s comments about the Commission being “not in step with the community” and that there is “no management” over the police department.
Weinberger’s comments were also raised in the Burlington Police Commission meeting on September 27. Commission Grant said the mayor’s comments were “unfair and blatantly incorrect in some circumstances”. Commissioner Suzy Comerford agreed that she was “surprised by the comments of the mayor”.
Currently, the Police Commission is waiting on written responses from Mayor Weinberger.