Burlington City Councilors spent more than an hour Monday night debating a resolution that expresses support for the city’s police department.
The police department in Vermont’s largest city has been under a microscope in recent months. Two lawsuits have been filed claiming excessive force. The death of a man following an altercation with an officer was deemed a homicide by the state’s medical examiner. During the reappointment of the police chief a number of people held signs criticizing police. Progressive Central District Councilor Perri Freeman has also suggested that officers should be disarmed.
During Monday night’s City Council meeting, Ward 4 Republican Kurt Wright put forth a resolution that states suggestions to disarm officers and other comments have demoralized the force. It offers the council’s continuing support.
During the public forum comments were mixed. Ericka Redic supported the resolution while slamming critics. “Dear Burlington Police Department: Thank you for being willing to take a stand for this community every day even though we condemn you bitterly when you don’t get things exactly perfect. Thank you for attending more de-escalation training while we call you racists and bigots. Thank you for responding to the 30,000 9-1-1 calls to BPD last year. Thank you Burlington Police Department for not giving up on Burlington even though Burlington has given up on you.”
Brian Waters is with the citizen group BTV Copwatch, which works to film Burlington Police in the field and inform citizens of their rights. He says the resolution does not address injustices. “The resolution reads like an attempt to shame members of this council and shame residents, your constituents, for daring to be critical of the police without so much as even acknowledging the racism and violence that is at the root of those criticisms. So my suggestion to you is to amend this resolution to acknowledge these very real concerns.”
Wright was dumbfounded when Progressive members of the council attempted, but failed, to make revisions. “It’s amazing to me that we cannot just make a simple statement of support. I mean I’ll never forget the meeting where Chief del Pozo was nominated and people were standing in the back of this room with signs saying “F the Police”. I think that the council ought to reject these amendments. It totally changes the resolution.”
Ward 7 Democrat/Progressive Ali Dieng felt the resolution was too limited. “What have we done as a body to victims who were maltreated by the police? Have we sent a letter to their families? This resolution also fails to recognize that people who work at the Burlington Police Department are not all officers. Don’t we think that they are demoralized?”
Councilor Freeman was criticized when she suggested disarming police officers. “I think the overarching goal is to create public safety and to have a less violent society and community. This doesn’t really speak to that.”
The resolution in support of the members of the Burlington Police Department passed on a 7 to 5 vote with opposition from all five Progressive members of the council.