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Burlington Mayor and Acting Police Chief provide update on police department rebuilding plan

photo of Burlington Police logo on a podium
Photo - Pat Bradley/WAMC
/
photo of Burlington Police logo on a podium

In the wake of the Burlington City Council approving a budget that includes funds to begin rebuilding the city police department and its subsequent approval of the union contract, Mayor Miro Weinberger and the city’s Acting Police Chief met this week to provide an update on the department’s rebuilding plan.

The city’s 2023 budget allows the department to hire up to 87 officers. Since early 2020, when the former city council capped the number of officers, sworn officer staffing has dropped to 61 with 53 of those available for patrol duties.

Democratic Mayor Miro Weinberger said the result has been a number of concerning public safety trends including increases in gun violence, larcenies and stolen vehicles.

“We have talked about major investments the city is making to address these issues by creating additional public safety resources, including adding social workers to the BPD team, adding urban park rangers to the park staff and creating other CSO positions of non-armed public safety personnel and more," noted Weinberger. "However, to fully address our current public safety challenges and ensure this community continues to be one of the safest cities in the country, we need to rebuild the department to the authorized headcount as soon as possible.”

The goal, according to Weinberger, is to increase department staffing levels over the next three years. The strategy includes better retention of officers, recruiting officers with additional incentives and marketing Burlington to potential recruits. Weinberger noted the City Council has helped secure significant resources to pursue the plan.

“There is approximately $1.2 million in the rebuilding plan that was approved in the budget. It's a three-year budget essentially to fund this effort," the Mayor said. "In addition, there was $220,000 of unspent recruitment incentives from a prior recruitment and retention initiative. And we are expecting to work over three years with the Queen City Police Foundation to bring in funds that will help offer specific incentives to officers. The other thing the council did is approve a new contract that will allow the BPD (Burlington Police Department) to be very competitive.”

Acting Police Chief Jon Murad says to meet a target of having 85 officers by December 2026, the department needs to double the number of new recruits going through the academy.

“It's a 50% increase in the number of recruits that we hire in each class. It is a 50% increase in the number of laterals that we bring aboard in each calendar year. And it is a 100% increase in the retention," according to Murad. "But we are not going to keep everybody we bring in. That's not the nature of this profession or any profession for that matter. We need to improve however how many we do keep. If we can do that, if we can double that improvement, if we can bring in laterals at fifty percent higher numbers than we have in the past, if we can bring in recruit classes, if we can do that then we keep to that schedule. That is ambitious but achievable.”

The Burlington Police Department also plans to hire a new public information officer and a recruitment coordinator.

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