Burlington Loses Another Interim Police Chief | WAMC

Burlington Loses Another Interim Police Chief

Sep 8, 2020

Turmoil among leadership of the Burlington, Vermont police department is continuing. The department has had three interim police chiefs since last December. Now, Jennifer Morrison is on her way out, too.

After Chief Brandon del Pozo resigned due to secret social media posts, Burlington Mayor Miro Weinberger appointed Deputy Chief Jan Wright acting chief.  She left the post in February after admitting she too used a fake social media account.  The mayor then appointed Jennifer Morrison as interim chief, with the caveat that she would take time off this summer because her husband faced major surgery. She was due to return in October.  But on Monday she submitted her resignation to the mayor.  
While Chief Morrison praised the city administration and department heads, her letter targets the Burlington City Council as the primary reason she will not return.  “It would be easy to just walk away by saying that our medical situation doesn’t allow me to return, but that would not be the whole truth. The main reason I will not return is because I believe that too many members of the current City Council are more interested in social activism than good governance.”

Ward 3’s Brian Pine is one of the senior progressives on the council.  “We are in many ways I think asserting our core values as Burlington has always done.”

Morrison continues her criticism of the Progressive -led council, saying its budget meeting “…was a shocking display of micromanagement – or rather, mismanagement.”  Current Council President Ward 2 Progressive Max Tracy says while the council has been focused on addressing constituent concerns about systemic racism, especially in the police department, it has not ignored the nuts and bolts of running the city.  “We’re dealing with a global pandemic and taking decisive action on that. We’ve continued to monitor that situation and react accordingly but are also contending with the public health emergency that we declared that is systemic racism. And we need to also be focused on that. So I reject the idea that there’s sort of these brass tacks issues and that somehow working on systemic racism is not and shouldn’t be a core focus of city government right now.”

Later Morrison, decries the city council’s cuts to the police department, stating: “Cutting the police budget – and preventing hiring until we reach 74 sworn – without first evaluating support services is unconscionable….I believe the Burlington City Council has created circumstances that are antithetical to public safety.”  Councilor Pine says the cuts were data driven and based on similar departments in other cities.  “So that decision was actually very much data driven. And it was the chief herself who said if you can redirect your resources to important social services meeting  social needs sure you could reduce the police department budget. Well that’s what we did as a council. We took that advice actually and did our homework and determined what would be a rational way to do that. And so we’re doing it over time. It’s not happening overnight and I stand by that decision.”

Republican Kurt Wright is a past city council president who is no longer on the council. He says Interim Chief Morrison’s critique of the council hits the mark and he’s glad she was candid in her parting letter.  “The council has believed irresponsibly in cutting the police force with no evaluation, no study. She has seen a trend of social activism over actual governing. And I think it’s a great concern that I’m hearing all around the city which is we have a city council that has inexperienced young councilors that are on the extreme edge of politics that are more behaving as activists than actual leaders of the city trying to govern.”

Burlington Mayor Miro Weinberger, a Democrat, was not available for comment.

Interim Chief Morrison's letter to Mayor Weinberger: