Burlington policing review committee to look to Camden, New Jersey for insights

Michael Bielawski/TNR

POLICING UNDER REVIEW:  A special committee formed to review policing policies held a meeting Tuesday night at the Burlington Police Department.

BURLINGTON — A special committee created to review policing policies after a series of use-of-force controversies earlier this year determined Tuesday night to look outside of Vermont for examples on how to make policy changes.

This was the committee’s sixth meeting, and the first after state Attorney General TJ Donovan announced on Friday that de-escalation techniques were lacking in an altercation between police and a civilian at UVM Health Center back in March. Burlington Police officer Cory Campbell was found to have used appropriate force while confronting Douglas Kilburn, 54, who died just days after the physical confrontation.

During the meeting, the 14-member committee decided to look beyond Vermont to get insight on how policing might be changed. In particular, members discussed looking for advice from Camden, New Jersey.

At their next meeting scheduled for Dec. 3, the committee plans to examine Camden’s use-of-force policy. Burlington Police Department Deputy Chief of Operations Jon Murad told True North that he and certain colleagues have already interacted with leadership of that city’s police department.

“The Burlington use-of-force policy that is currently in place is a textbook use of force according to the International Association of the Chiefs of Police from five to 10 years ago,” Murad said. “It is, however, not something that is in keeping with the more cutting edge [policies] that we have seen from places like Camden, from places like the New York City Police Department, and from places like Austin, Texas.”

He said there is nothing necessarily wrong with the current Burlington policy, but newer policies place more emphasis on de-escalation and use force only as a last resort.

“There are things that it does not include, including strong articulations about a philosophy for the sanctity of life and the obligation of officers to protect life,” Murad said. ” … An emphasis on de-escalation, that is in our policy. But it is not emphasized in a way that we would want it to be.”

During the meeting, one discussion focused in on what number of police officers is appropriate for the city of Burlington. The department currently has about 100 officers, but it is approved for up to 105.

Carter Neubieser, a committee member representing the local LGBT community, suggested capping the number down to 100. However, that idea ran into opposition.

“I’m not supportive of reducing the number of police officers,” Burlington City Councilor Joan Shannon, D-South District, said. “In my neighborhood we have problems and we call the police, and at times it is very hard to get the police to come to our neighborhood because we’re not in the more downtown area. And when you call Thursday, Friday, Saturday nights, the police are … they kind of triage our calls.”

Further complicating matters, Murad noted, is the nationwide shortage of qualified police recruits.

“Around the nation, recruitment and retention is an issue for policing profession,” he told True North following the meeting.

He added that the role of police is changing over time so that police now are being called upon to perform non-traditional duties.

“That includes dealing with certain types of disorders that once upon a time were the subject of other kinds of social service, and no longer. [Those] fall to the police,” Murad told True North. “Now we have few officers available and our ability to respond to those increasing tasks is challenged.”

Neubieser suggested that having the city invest more in social services might be the solution.

“There is no sense that this is gonna change over the next year, that you are gonna pick up 10 more officers to fill demand,” he said. “So in the meantime, this is a more sustainable strategy of investing in social services directly instead of continuing to fund more and more officers.”

The committee also made clear its desire to better understand the public’s perceptions of the police. Murad noted the department sent out a survey along with the National Police Foundation. The text-message survey is intended to be concise so that more people will respond with feedback. It is a precursor to a larger survey that will go out by mail.

Kevin Rodgers, a doctor representing the medical community for the committee, worried that this survey might not accurately represent minorities.

“It is just not a sound way of gathering information in the community,” he said. “There’s selection bias, there are problems with the questions, and so on and so forth.”

Murad responded that the survey is done by a reputable non-governmental organization that works with the federal government. The organization specializes in crafting these for law enforcement around the country. The text-message survey was sent to about 17,000 residents known to have had some interaction with police.

Committee members expressed that they would like to see more local residents attend these committee meetings. On Tuesday, no members of the public were in attendance. The committee weighed holding future meetings at City Hall rather than at the police station.

The committee is expected to provide policy recommendations to the city council at the end of this month. However, members are seeking an extension to that deadline.

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

Image courtesy of Michael Bielawski/TNR

6 thoughts on “Burlington policing review committee to look to Camden, New Jersey for insights

  1. Is there any wonder why there are few qualified recruits or anyone interested in being a law enforcement officer? They don’t get any backing from their employer or their leadership all for political correctness reasons. In 98% of cases involving law abiding citizens there is no angst or concerns with the dealings with a police officer. All of the whining comes most often from those doing the crime or misdeeds.

    These latest moves to disarm the police is insanity. Not a one of these pious community “activists” would have the stones to be out on their own at 3:00 AM checking on a suspicious activity call. But, they (activists) have no compunction to call and expect an officer to respond to their call. The miscreants police encounter could care less about an officers life or well being as they will do what ever is necessary to escape any questioning, arrest, etc. and the officer is the sacrificial lamb.

    What a bunch of B.S.. Cities like San Fran, NYC, LA, Portland OR, Seattle are good examples of police not being police. To be spit on, have urine thrown on you, objects thrown at you, is just what these city counselors are proposing. What are a few other benefits of symptomatic policing ? Homelessness, rampant drug use, mental illness, high crime, failing downtown’s, exodus of residents and you name it.
    Burlington is well on it’s way there already!
    Good luck!

  2. Camden, NJ & Bulington, VT? Now if there were ever two peas to a pod, these certainly aren’t two of them. Camden, for those unfamiliar with the city, is racked with crime and has a hughe population of folks of color. Can’t imagine what lessons applicable to Burlington can be learned from this waste of time and resources.

  3. 2 of the three cities to which they model are I think having an increase in crime? Does Camden?
    Why would you choose to model these cities? Why? How about modeling cities that got themselves out of bad crime? Mayor Giuliani….

    So what is the cause for all the police calls being on a Thursday, Friday or Saturday night?
    What is going on those evenings that doesn’t go on all the other evenings in Vermont?

    Could it possibly have anything, anything to do with drugs or alcohol? Just guessing here…

    Look at the beatings going on at Norwich, they post in Vermont Digger about one guy beaten pretty bad, he’s of color. They don’t say anything about the other white guys getting pummeled and yhen talk about the racism in Vermont. No, sorry it’s alcoholism. Situational awareness, should be pretty important for a soldier, should be basic in the training. Situational awareness…..same for all college students, smaller/weaker people naturally understand this, you don’t want to make yourself unnecessarily vulnerable.

    • They seem to have chosen Camden because it has the philosophy
      of community involved policing over police law enforcement. Though some crime has gone down by a few points it’s still has 4 times the amount of crime over the average US city. It fits their policing without guns agenda which isn’t policing at all, it’s social involvement “can i be your friend” bullskat that real criminals laugh at. Before you know it they’ll be throwing water balloons at the cops like NYC… demeaning the police and elevating the criminal..

  4. So I hear the comments & concerns, all these ” Do-Gooders ” really don’t have a clue,
    they need to walk in Police Officers shoes for a while, not just show up at a meeting with
    something they don’t agree with or understand…….. Pathetic.

    As a taxpayer in Burlington, I want to hear what the ” Burlington Police Department ” has
    to say, their concerns, not ways to hinder them…..things like take away their guns, reduce
    headcount that’s what I see from this committee…………….

    Then a text-message ” survey ” was sent to about 17,000 residents, known to have had some
    ” interaction” with police. I believe Burlington has over 42,000 residents and I bet most have had
    more ” interaction ” with the Police and most would-be property owners ….

    The truth would be spoken, not slanted.

    • Committees are not for finding the truth. They are for implementing a desired plan, while making it look like the citizens are involved with the decision. The outcome has been decided before any committee was ever formed. Show me a case where this does not apply to anything going on in Vermont. We are only puppets, with strings tied from those in government above. The goal is to break down law and order, structure of functional society. everything makes sense. When you see the game plans, and they are all written out its plain to see they are following the recipe, very closely.

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