The police chief in Vermont's largest city has admitted that he used an anonymous Twitter account to troll a government critic.
Burlington Police Chief Brandon del Pozo told the weekly newspaper Seven Days that for one hour on July 4 he used the anonymous Twitter account to respond to the critic. He says he erased the tweets and deleted the account because he realized he was wrong.
The newspaper reports that on July 28 DelPozo told Burlington Mayor Miro Weinberger what he had done. He was put on paid administrative leave and then took six weeks medical leave for mental health treatment.
Del Pozo said Mayor Miro Weinberger did not immediately comment Friday.
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Burlington Mayor Miro Weinberger issued the following statement late Friday afternoon:
Statement Regarding Chief del Pozo’s Twitter Account and Related Actions
Burlington, VT – Mayor Miro Weinberger today responded to news stories regarding Chief of Police Brandon del Pozo’s fake Twitter account with the following statement:
“On the evening of Sunday, July 28, Chief del Pozo self-reported to me that he had posted tweets from an anonymous Twitter account and that he had not been forthright with a reporter about those tweets.
I was very troubled by both the tweets and his response to a member of the media, and as a result I took a number of immediate steps upon arriving at work the next morning. I immediately placed the Chief on administrative leave, directed him to turn in his badge, gun, and city phone, and instructed him to cease using social media. I also directed City Attorney Eileen Blackwood and Human Resources Director Deanna Paluba to open an investigation into the Chief’s actions.
The investigation quickly confirmed that while the Chief had not committed any illegal acts or explicitly violated any City policy, he clearly had conducted himself in a manner that was unacceptable, inappropriate, and not consistent with what I expect from the Chief of Police.
Early in the course of the investigation, the City Attorney and HR Director learned that the Chief had an underlying mental health condition that had impacted his actions. This opinion was made by Chief del Pozo’s doctor, and evaluated and confirmed by the City’s medical examiner.
At that point I followed the strong recommendations of the City Attorney and HR Director to treat this matter as we would any employee medical situation. Therefore the City granted the Chief a Family and Medical Leave of Absence (FMLA) and we attempted to protect his medical information, as even the Chief of Police is entitled to some level of privacy.
I was always clear that my ability to protect the Chief’s privacy, by virtue of his office and his actions, was limited by my responsibility to answer forthrightly questions from the public. I was asked about the Chief’s tweets for the first time yesterday by Seven Days, and at that time I shared this full account.
After six weeks of FMLA the Chief was cleared to return to work by both his doctor and the City’s medical examiner.
Upon his return to work, I formally reprimanded the Chief and warned him that any repeat of the problematic conduct would result in his immediate termination. Chief del Pozo’s conduct was certainly troubling to me, and I considered more serious discipline. However, I decided to give him the chance to resume his duties based on the following factors: 1) The Chief self-reported his mistakes; 2) The problematic tweets were posted for less than an hour and the Chief immediately recognized that what he did was wrong; 3) Two medical professionals asserted that these actions were linked to a mental health condition and employers of public safety personnel have a duty to treat mental health issues with compassion and awareness of the stigma still associated with mental health issues; 4) The Chief took action to address his medical condition; and 5) The Chief’s overall service to date had been otherwise excellent.
Moreover, when dealing with personnel issues as mayor, I generally believe that people deserve second chances if possible, particularly when they have come forward to admit error.
I have spent much of today seeking and receiving feedback about this matter from colleagues, stakeholders, and the public. I will have more to say on Monday after reviewing and reflecting on all that has been shared with me.”
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