Burlington police chief debunks ticketing bias narrative: ‘You are seeing a car behave in a certain way, not a driver’

Acting Burlington Police Chief Jon Murad on Tuesday defended his department from yet another assertion that his officers use racial bias for their traffic ticketing duties.

At a Police Commission Meeting, Murad commented about a professor who brought up the issue of ticketing biases. The chief said officers typically do not know the race of the driver during stops.

“The majority of the time the officer doesn’t know the identity of that driver,” Murad said. “That is, you are seeing a car behave in a certain way, not a driver behave in a certain way.”

Burlington Police Department Facebook

STANDING UP FOR HIS OFFICERS: Burlington Police Chief Jon Murad said officers act professionally.

Sociology professor Neil Gross of Colby College, located in Maine, stated over Zoom that racial profiling is a problem and all police departments should address it head on. Gross said he wants reforms to be initiated from within the department, but not necessarily through training.

“For me, when it comes to solving these kinds of problems, the solution is organizational, not training,” he said. “The idea is can sergeants put pressure on officers to reduce these disparities. Right? Do something different. This is not OK. Change your behavior. Why are you making all these stops? Those kinds of things. And to do that you need to have organizational incentives — their feet have to be held to the fire.”

Murad said instead of focusing so much on who’s getting pulled over, it is better to watch for discrepancies in what happens next. He said what the department can do is try to ensure that drivers of any race or background are given equal treatment — for example, when it comes to suspending licenses.

“What we find is when we remove suspended licenses from the picture, we actually issue tickets less often to drivers of color — not in 2020, but that was the case in 2019 and 2018,” the chief said.

He added that when it comes to issuing tickets for a suspended license, there is no room for discretion by the issuing officer.

The comments echo statements by Barre Police Chief Tim Bombardier. In addition to saying that officers cannot typically tell who is in a car during traffic duties, he said it’s even more the case after dark. He said racial-profiling data on tickets issued at night is therefore not relevant. Bombardier also notes that multiple tickets can be issued per stop, which is another factor that can skew data collection and analysis.

Gross responded that even if Murad feels his department is not seeing apparent evidence of racial bias in ticketing practices, that doesn’t mean the department should not take up additional efforts to make the numbers more equitable.

“I think that in a small agency there aren’t these dramatic differences [in ticketing data] across shifts as you mentioned. But you know, I think there can still be incentives and structures in place that can be effective.”

The full Burlington Police Commission meeting can be viewed here.

Michael Bielawski is a reporter for True North. Send him news tips at bielawski82@yahoo.com and follow him on Twitter @TrueNorthMikeB.

Images courtesy of Burlington Police and Burlington Police Department Facebook

6 thoughts on “Burlington police chief debunks ticketing bias narrative: ‘You are seeing a car behave in a certain way, not a driver’

  1. All the activist blather about Vermont’s lack of “equity” in policing may be true to some extent, although it likely works both ways. With all the heightened scrutiny on law enforcement officers about targeting “people of color”, you have to believe that there are plenty of instances where an officer observes a car running a red light, rolling through a stop sign or speeding and when they catch up and visually realize the driver is a POC, the officer just pretends to look the other way and thinks to themself: this is not worth the grief and the scrutiny. Being a “person of melanin” in Vermont can just as easily be a distinct advantage for those seeking to avoid police interaction.

  2. So let’s see, you break the law and you
    happen to be a person of color, is that Being racist or is that being a person who
    Broke the law. ???

    I have known plenty of police officers
    and “Color” has never been an issue but
    Breaking the laws is……..If you don’t like
    Being arrested don’t break the law

    Fools in charge, pleasing the woke

  3. We’ve listened to the self proclaimed experts rant on for years about how many persons of color are having interactions with the police in Burlington. What I haven’t heard is much discussion about the home addresses of these subjects and what their criminal background and intent is. Any 6th grader could read the daily arrest info and see that unfortunately Burlington has become a safe haven for those wanting to perform criminal actions with home addresses in Brooklyn, Springfield, Mass, and other known hot spots for drug dealers and sex traffickers’ who have migrated to Burlington as it is easy pickings,

  4. In spite of a mob mentality to “Defund the Police, “ACAB” and gaslighting regarding “Equity” the police in Vermont are doing their jobs as well as they can- considering the roadblocks. Claims of racism will accompany any citation, arrest and traffic violation for years to come, with the majority of those claims baseless. The manipulation of data- for example a 2017 paper written by UVM professor Stephanie Sequino “Driving Black and Brown in Vermont” was touted as groundbreaking evidence of statewide systemic racism in policing. Even Phil Scott was gaslighted by this allegedly “factual” report of racism run rampant in law enforcement. Some examination of Sequino’s claims showed the bias of those claims and Police Chiefs in Burlington and Barre are trying to get true information out. I would expect to see comments and articles decrying both these men as racist, with liberals demanding they be fired, investigated for hate crimes for their efforts to get truth to the public. In light of the uproar over imagined racism in policing, are non Caucasian people getting let off the hook for traffic violations? How about assaults, theft and reckless behavior? I can easily see where a sworn officer would not want to write a citation, knowing that odds are high it will be contested as a racist act.
    The current fervor over all things “Equity”is but one more ideology manufactured by the left to further divide this State and Nation. I’m grateful that the police in Vermont see thru at least some of it.

  5. Only ticket white folks and let all others of color off? I’d like to know where this Gross fella gets his data comparing tickets to whites vs. those of color. I sounds like he has only an opinion with no facts.

  6. Thanks for keeping the public safe in the face of budget cuts, stupid suggestions, morale-destroying attacks, edicts originating in faculty lounges delivered via the taxpayer-funded elitist-sponsored bottom of their class gender/equity studies majors doing their bidding bc it’s the only way they can even pay the rent. Keep up the wonderful work of protecting all including these abject losers Chief along with your brave hardworking heroes BPD officers and staffers! 😀

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