Mayor’s Office

Mayor Miro Weinberger Urges City Council to Adopt Public Safety Continuity Plan

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
January 25, 2021 
Contact:  Olivia LaVecchia 
                 (802) 734-0617 

Mayor Miro Weinberger Urges City Council to Adopt Public Safety Continuity Plan 

 

Burlington, VT – At tonight’s City Council meeting, the Council will consider a Public Safety Continuity Plan developed by the Administration. In a memo posted to the City Council agenda, Mayor Miro Weinberger urges the City Council to approve this plan.  

“It is a fundamental job of City government to ensure public safety,” Mayor Weinberger writes in the memo. “When the public calls, we need to be able to respond with professional public safety employees who are trained for the full range of emergencies and needs that Burlington residents expect to be addressed. Now, however, the City Council has created a crisis in public safety that threatens the City’s continued ability to meet this fundamental responsibility… The package before you Monday night is my second attempt to propose a solution to this crisis. I respectfully urge you to approve it as a necessary step during this period of evaluation and assessment, and caution again that significant additional public safety service curtailments will happen soon if this proposal is not accepted... By joining with the administration and approving this proposal, you will create a path for providing the services we need and the Burlington public expects, while also trying new strategies and completing the analysis that we need in order to succeed at further transformation of the Police Department.” 

Mayor Weinberger’s memo outlines the ways in which the City is currently facing a crisis in public safety: 

  • In June 2020, the City Council voted to reduce the number of police officers in Burlington from 105 to 74, without a plan in place for how the City would respond to the full range of calls with 30 percent fewer officers. 
  • Already, as a result of this vote, the Police Department has had to curtail services that include: the Community Affairs Officer who helped coordinate the City’s response to graffiti, the Emergency Response Officer who helped manage the innovative strategies that the Department uses to respond to acute mental health crises, the street crime team that responded to patterns of open-air drug activity and robbery, and foot patrols on Church Street.
  • Soon, matters are likely to become worse. There are currently 41 officers available for patrol. When that number falls into the high 30s, the Police Department will have to curtail additional services that include: Reassigning the Domestic Violence Prevention Officer who coordinates enforcement, prosecution, and services follow-up for this complicated and unfortunately common crime; reducing the detective bureau, limiting their ability to respond to felony assaults, robberies, gun violence, narcotics and sex trafficking, and pattern crimes; and no longer being able to support the Fire Department at all scenes to ensure those scenes are safe prior to entry, impacting the Department’s ability to provide emergency medical services. 
  • As staffing levels drop without the kind of shift in workload that requires a comprehensive assessment to undertake, the City faces increased overtime – which has budgetary implications and serious performance implications that result from overwork. 

The Administration’s Public Safety Continuity Plan would respond to this crisis by taking the following actions: 

  • Raising the cap on sworn officers from 74 to 84, and establishing a target level of 78 sworn personnel – a significant reduction from 105, but one that maintains the BPD’s ability to respond to calls for service; 
  • Adding four Community Service Officers, giving the City new capacity to shift more calls to personnel who have different training than sworn officers and do not carry weapons; and 
  • Immediately adding a Community Service Liaison position who would provide support for individuals who have come into contact with police and are suffering from opioid use disorder, and beginning the process of creating two more of these positions. 

The full proposal, including Mayor Weinberger’s memo, is available on the City Council agenda

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Press Release Date: 
01/25/2021
City Department: 
Mayor's Office