At the most recent Burlington City Council meeting (on Tuesday Feb 18th) the agenda included a report on community policing practices.
The 15-member Committee on Reforming Policing Practices was formed in June 2019 to review Burlington’s policing practices and offer recommendations for policy changes. Their report was submitted to the city council on February 12th. Chair Randall Harp appeared before the council at its last meeting. Rather than summarizing the report he answered questions from city councilors. The first query was for an overview of key findings. “The city council tasked us with focusing our attention on a use of force policy and also on community oversight. In general, the committee recommended that an updated use of force policy emphasize the importance of de-escalation. The second major item was the committee oversight structure. The police commission currently has some oversight about how the process of discipline works. The committee encouraged revisions to that practice.”
The report also found the city should clearly delineate when and how body cam footage is publicly released and broaden community and minority engagement of the police department. Ward 1 Independent Sharon Foley Bushor asked if any formal policies had been drafted by the committee. “Was there a draft or anything to suggest some language? Or was this recommendations?”
Harp: “There was a draft that was made of an updated use of force policy. That draft policy covers some of, but not all of, the items that are touched on in this report. That draft policy I understand is still being worked on.”
South District Democrat Joan Shannon was a member of the committee. “We did have to spend a lot of time getting ourselves up to speed with what our policing practices are. But I think that the police commission with the guidance of the work from this committee is going to be able to advance a lot of the ideas. I'm very pleased with this end product.”
Burlington Deputy Police Chief Jon Murad also praised the committee’s recommendations. “The roadmap for the draft policy, which has already been written, is going to be a significant policy that puts us at the cutting edge of where the country is for use of force policy.”
Council President Kurt Wright: “Chief Morrison.”
Interim Burlington Police Chief Jennifer Morrison: “I think the report is excellent. And it intersects nicely with discussions that are happening in other realms such as the police commission about clarifying the role of the police commission, which I think is a really important piece of work to be done before the new chief comes in. This is the right time for these discussions. There's been a lot of things happening in my first seven weeks on the job, and in my work with the police commission, and this report really does reach out and touch all of those things that were already happening anyway.”
The motion to accept the report, place it on file and refer it to the Public Safety Committee to create an action plan passed on a 10 to 2 vote.