Mayor Will Conduct National Search for the Next Chief of Police; City Hires Workplace Expert to Conduct Review of Burlington Police Department Social Media Practices; Deputy Chief Wright Placed on Administrative Leave; City Implements Interim Social Media Policy
Vermont Business Magazine On Friday, Mayor Miro Weinberger announced a series of next steps for the Burlington Police Department, designed to address multiple facets of the department’s leadership and social media practices and lead the department forward. The most prominent of these is appointing Jennifer Morrison as interim chief beginning January 7, 2020. Morrison will become the fourth chief in less than a month. Chief Brandon del Pozo resigned following revelations that he had taunted a critic with a fake Twitter account and then lied about it. The acting chief replacing him, Deputy Chief Jan Wright, then also admitted to a fake Facebook account. The new acting chief, Deputy Chief Jon Murad, will serve until Morrison, the former Colchester chief of police who got her start in the BPD, takes over.
“After a challenging week for the Burlington Police Department and the City of Burlington, today, with action on numerous fronts, we begin the work of moving forward,” said Mayor Weinberger. “We are fortunate to have a department with 154 years of history, decades of outstanding leadership, and the strength and resilience demanded by this moment.”
Next Steps for the Burlington Police Department
The following are the next steps announced today for the Burlington Police Department:
- Mayor Weinberger will conduct a full, national search for the next Chief of Police: The Mayor will consult with the Police Commission and City Council about the plan for this search in early January 2020.
- Mayor Weinberger will appoint Jennifer Morrison to serve as Interim Chief of Police: Effective January 7, pending City Council confirmation on January 6, Jennifer Morrison will serve as Interim Chief of Police for the months that it takes for the City to complete a national search. Chief Morrison will bring years of leadership experience to the role during this critical interim period, having begun her career with the Burlington Police Department in 1990, serving as Deputy Chief until 2013, and serving as Chief of Police for the Colchester Police Department for five years from 2013 to 2018. As the Burlington Free Press reported in 2018, “Morrison has been an important part of regional discussions on how to solve shared problems with mental health issues, drug addiction, and how to better deliver emergency response services.”
- Deputy Chief Jan Wright placed on administrative leave: As the City continues its investigation into Deputy Chief Wright’s social media activity, Deputy Chief Wright is being placed on administrative leave. Upon the conclusion of the investigation, the Mayor will work with the Police Commission to determine any additional discipline.
- The City will hire the workplace expert Anita Tinney to conduct a review of the Burlington Police Department’s social media practices: As principal consultant with the consulting firm Employee and Labor Relations Academy, Anita has an extensive background in conducting workplace investigations and establishing preventative and proactive labor practices. She has worked with many other municipalities, and will travel to Vermont to start this investigation on January 3. The investigation will seek to understand the Department’s existing practices around social media use, develop clear standards for behavior, and determine what training and/or policy changes will be needed to ensure that those standards are implemented.
Next Steps for the City of Burlington
On Wednesday, Mayor Weinberger wrote to all City employees to give direction about social media use. He shared a draft social media policy that is in the final stages of formal adoption, after having been reviewed by all four public employee unions and, since November, by the City Council’s Human Resources Committee. While the policy may change modestly before it is formally adopted by the City Council as is required for all personnel policies, the Mayor determined that it was sufficiently vetted to share with City employees and direct them to follow as an interim policy until a final policy is formally adopted.
Social media policy is an emerging and changing landscape, and will require ongoing review. For example, the interim social media policy does not currently address pseudonymous accounts, and the City will review how to address this in the final policy. The City’s interim policy seeks to balance employees’ rights to express themselves and communicate with each other about work-related issues, while also setting expectations around how to use these tools in the context of work-related matters.
- Interim social media policy of the City of Burlington
- Dec. 13: “Statement Regarding Chief del Pozo’s Twitter Account and Related Actions”
- Dec. 16: “Statement Regarding the Resignation of Chief of Police Brandon del Pozo”
- Dec. 16: “Statement Regarding Deputy Chief Jan Wright”
Source: Mayor 12.20.2019