The mayor of Burlington, Vermont announced a series of initiatives Friday aimed at transforming policing in the city.
For a month protesters and activists have been camping in downtown Burlington protesting police violence and racial inequality. Among their demands are firing three officers involved in past use of force incidents. The city agreed this week to a separation agreement with one of them. Other demands include defunding the police and requiring all bodycam footage be publicly available.
To address some of their concerns and advance on-going projects, Democratic Mayor Miro Weinberger announced five initiatives on Friday to reform the Burlington Police Department and its policies. His primary action was announcing a new appointment. “I am appointing Kyle Dodson the CEO of the Greater Burlington YMCA to a new temporary position of Director of Police Transformation. Kyle will report directly to me and his role will focus on identifying areas for change, guiding the development of new policy. He will oversee day to day the multiple police transformation processes that the city has committed to in recent months. To get it right I realized that we need to both expand the city’s capacity to get the work done and bring in perspectives from Burlington’s BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color) community and from outside of law enforcement.”
Kyle Dodson says his role is to bring together a wide range of interests to create a policing policy that unites all segments of the city. “At this point it’s a general vision. But I think the most important part that is I believe concrete and clear is there are members of the community, Black folks, BIPOC folks, allies, who have a clear sense of the injustices the traumas, the hurts, the wounds that are being suffered and the things that caused them to mistrust police officers, mistrust our institutions. And if we do this work properly, so one goal is that we will have a common understanding of what it means to work on behalf of the community. We won’t have this difference. There’ll be the Chief of Police, the Mayor, BIPOC folks, the Racial Justice Alliance, the Black Perspective who all believe that Burlington is a place that cares about all its residents.”
Mayor Weinberger outlined four other measures, which expand upon efforts the city has already committed to. Among them is the issuance of an executive order to assure that the mayor has a clear role in major police disciplinary decisions. “We’ve had much talk about how the charter as a statutory matter as a formal matter reserves disciplinary decisions to the chief of police. What this is doing is in line with that charter. This insures that in a structured formal way no decision will be made on a major disciplinary action by chiefs in the future without the mayor, whether it’s me or some future mayor, having a clear opportunity to judge the events that took place and weigh in on them and have a formal recommendation from the mayor on the desk of the Police Chief as they are making the final disciplinary decisions.”
Dodson will take a six month leave of absence from the YMCA to work as the city’s Director of Police Transformation.