Burlington City Council Adopts Fair And Impartial Policing Resolution
This week, the Burlington City Council passed a Fair and Impartial Policing Policy that meets a state mandate, but avoids federal designation as a sanctuary city.
The Burlington City Council passed the policy that resolves in part to “continue its longstanding and legal practice of not inquiring into the immigration status of individuals…”
U.S. Attorney General Jeffrey Sessions has issued guidance that defines a sanctuary city as any jurisdiction that fails to comply with Section 1373 – which prevents local jurisdictions from enacting laws prohibiting local officials from communicating immigration status to federal authorities.
City Attorney Eileen Blackwood explains that the resolution avoids sanctuary city status while at the same time meeting state requirements. “Vermont has a state law that requires every local police department to adopt a fair and impartial policing policy. In looking at the model policy that was developed we had some concerns that portions of it might violate 1373. So we had made some changes to it. Burlington isn’t going to ask about anybody’s immigration status. That’s really the key here. Because that’s not something they need to know in order to do their job, number one. And number two the city does not want to discourage those folks that are here in the United States from contacting the police if they are victims or witnesses to crimes.”
Burlington Deputy Police Chief Shawn Burke notes that the department has had a fair and impartial policy in place since 2010 and officers have not inquired about immigration status since that time. “What it does is it gives a great deal of direction about our ability to communicate with federal authorities when we are required to under statute. So that was not in the 2010 policy of the Burlington police because at that time there wasn’t so much focus around immigration and what we’ve seen now as an uptick in the tempo of immigration enforcement.”
The resolution was drafted by the Burlington Police Commission following public forums to gather feedback on the proposed policy. Among the groups involved was Migrant Justice. Staff Member Will Lambek says the city belatedly complied with state law and the fair and impartial policing policy is one part of a larger puzzle. “We think this is an important step forward but it’s one issue among many. The Burlington Police Department also recently released data showing pretty startling racial disparities in their use of force in encounters with public and so you know there are other things that they have to address as well.”
The resolution was written by Burlington’s city attorney in collaboration with the Vermont chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union and Migrant Justice and recommended for adoption by the Police Commission.
Police Commission Memo:
Burlington Police Department Fair And Impartial Policing Policy: