Weinberger to resume search for Burlington's next police chief

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Weinberger to resume search for Burlington's next police chief

Fri, 05/14/2021 - 3:20pm -- tim

Search process will begin with robust public engagement effort and community survey

by Timothy McQuiston, Vermont Business Magazine Today, Mayor Miro Weinberger announced that the city will resume its search for Burlington’s next permanent Police Chief. One year ago, Mayor Weinberger suspended the Police Chief search due to the uncertain circumstances of the COVID-19 pandemic, with the goal of re-starting the search after the mayoral election.

“We need structural and cultural transformation of law enforcement in this country and in Burlington, and to forge a new consensus on the future of public safety here,” said Mayor Miro Weinberger. “Our new Police Chief will play an essential leadership role in that work. Our hope is to have a community informed hiring process that fosters trust and creates a strong foundation for our public safety transformation.”

The restarted search process will begin with public engagement effort, which will include a community survey and a series of stakeholder meetings to solicit input from the community on what they would like to see in the City’s next Police Chief.

The position is open because of a series of tumultuous events.

Mayor Weinberger and Chief Del Pozo at an event in 2017. Del Pozo was hired in 2015 and resigned in December 2019. VBM file photo.

In December 2019 then Police Chief Brandon del Pozo was forced to resign after a series of social media posts, which were not only inappropriate but about which he initially denied. The mayor then appointed Deputy Chief Jan Wright as acting chief, only to remove her in January 2020 after learning she also had written unacceptable social media posts.

Weinberger then named former Colchester Police Chief Jennifer Morrison as interim chief and eventually acting chief.

Soon after, Morrison took a personal leave in June to attend to her ailing husband. But she did not return as intended by the end of the year, instead resigning in September 2020. While thanking the mayor, Morrison castigated the City Council for reducing the police budget, which she maintained undermined confidence within the department and reduced public safety.

Morrison said in part in her letter to the mayor dated September 1, 2020: "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. I got a sense of this when they passed a FIP policy written by a special interest group, against the advice of the City Attorney and the top two police officials. This was most certainly a harbinger of things to come.

"I knew I could not return on the night of the budget discussion and passage. Watching from afar, as a private citizen, I witnessed councilors who conflated facts, ignored information previously provided to them, and demonstrated disrespect for their department heads by diving deep into line items within department budgets and cutting line items without even knowing the impact the cuts would have, nor the ripple effects of cutting in one area. That budget meeting was a shocking display of micromanagement -- or rather, mismanagement. It was dispiriting to see numerous councilors send the message loud and clear that they think they know more about City operations than the Department Heads who have devoted their entire career to these pursuits."

Jon Murad has been acting chief since Morrison stepped away.

Now, Mayor Weinberger said he will hold a series stakeholder meetings during the month of May with the goal of developing a position profile and vision for what the Police Chief’s priorities should be in their first year of service.

In addition to visiting all Neighborhood Planning Assembly meetings during the month of May, Mayor Weinberger will hold discussions with stakeholder sectors including education, BIPOC organizations, social services partners, business, and youth.

Following the stakeholder engagement process, the Administration will publish a Public Engagement Report that compiles the survey data and feedback from listening sessions, update the position description, and post the opening with a position profile that incorporates the public input.

At that time, the Mayor will also announce the full search committee, who will begin the interview process in mid-July. Mayor Weinberger’s goal is to forward an appointment to the Council for confirmation in September.

Mayor Weinberger will appoint the search committee in June, with up to 11 members, and include two Police Commissioners and two City Councilors. For the first time for a Mayoral appointment process, Mayor Weinberger is soliciting applications from community members interested in serving on the search committee.

One community member will be selected and the deadline to apply is May 30.

The community survey and search committee application can be found on the City’s website, here: https://www.burlingtonvt.gov/mayor/police_chief_search. A translated survey will be available next week.

Burlington, VT – Mayor Miro Weinberger 5.14.2021