Despite claims of police brutality, controversial use-of-force incidents are rare in Burlington

BURLINGTON — While a new committee is being formed to review policies in response to accusations of police brutality, statistics from the Burlington Police Department show that very few police interactions involve a use of force, and only a handful of those require a review.

“It’s rare and it’s not just me saying it — it’s backed up by data,” City Councilor Adam Roof, I-Ward 8, told True North. “For last year’s data … there were about 30,000 interactions and less than 200 of those were reported as using force.”

According to police data, police calls that require physical force are few and far between: 193 incidents in 2018, 246 in 2016, 193 in 2015, and 316 in 2012. Uses of force include anything from “empty hand techniques” and pointing a gun to pepper spray and tasing with a Taser.

Adam Roof

Burlington City Councilor Adam Roof, I-Ward 8

Roof said of the 193 incidents that took place in 2018, only a few warranted any review.

“It’s very few, just a handful,” he said. “When I say that, it’s not to diminish the impact of those individual instances.”

Roof added that force has “a pretty broad definition” and may include additional methods such as restraining a suspect for handcuffs, throwing punches, wrestling and firing a weapon.

Councilor Max Tracy, P-Ward 2, says he thinks incidents involving excessive use of force should always warrant a response from city leadership.

“We’ve seen a number of these happen over the course of the past year, and I think any one of these incidents is terrible enough to cause significant harm — such that I think that even if one is taking place we absolutely have to take it seriously,” he said.

Two incidents dating back to September 2018 have stirred negative headlines and federal lawsuits for the city.

Mabior Jok and Congolese immigrant Jérémie Meli, both black men, were arrested in separate back-to-back altercations Sept. 8-9. While charges against both men were dropped, police body cam footage of the incidents has sparked a debate over whether police used too much force during the arrests.

Evan Chadwick, the attorney representing Meli and Jok, claims the police officers who were called to the scene did not follow proper protocols to de-escalate the situation.

City Council President Kurt Wright agrees with the notion that Burlington police officers use force responsibly, and that controversial altercations are extremely rare.


City Council President Kurt Wright

“The statistics show that’s it’s a tiny fraction of all the different interactions that the Burlington Police Department has to deal with,” he said. “It’s a tiny, tiny fraction of the time that they have to use force, and a tiny fraction of that number where there’s any kind of problem where someone gets hurt.”

He said that while he supports the new committee to examine policy, he’s also concerned that leaders may be overreacting.

“I think there’s a danger that the police commission appointments [voted on last week] were part of the overreaction,” he said. “To remove two counselors that were by all accounts doing a good job, and one of which had only been placed on the commission about a year and a half ago approximately, [was too much].”

Wright said it was “very discouraging to citizens to replace these commissioners giving their own free time and then just be removed with no apparent reason.”

“It is really just a slap in the face to the citizens,” he said.

Wright, the only Republican on the 12-member City Council, is likely to be outnumbered as things develop with the new committee on policing practices.

“It used to be that we had some centrist-type progressives, but the progressives have taken a really sharp turn to the far left,” he said.

Wright said he hopes when all is concluded, the police will have public support and maintain the ability to do their jobs.

“The concern is that the men and women of the Burlington Police Department begin to feel under siege, begin to feel demoralized by what’s going on in the city,” he said.

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

Images courtesy of Public domain, Adam Roof and TNR

4 thoughts on “Despite claims of police brutality, controversial use-of-force incidents are rare in Burlington

  1. Another solution looking for a problem. If in the rare instance, there could be a questionable level of over responding, I’ll side with the officer. There are far too many of these folks being killed in the line of dsuty. Can hardly blame them for being assertive in keeping the peace.

  2. In the hand book, people need to know the game plan otherwise we’re just lambs waiting for the wolf. In the handbook, if somebody miss-steps, the first thing to do is call a massive press conference and have people removed from their positions.

    There is no room for error, which we all know if humanely impossible.

    You’ll also find this behavior is only looked upon in one direction, because it’s not about fairness and equal justice under the law. It is not about defending our republic and constitution.

    The hand book is about power, money and control. It gets power not by solving problems, bringing people together, but by creating division, mistrust, envy and hatred.

    There is a good book and there is book that’s not so great. If we don’t understand the rules by which others are playing, we fall for their traps every time.

    We must stop taking the bait.

  3. People need to be well schooled in the method and ways of those who use the hand book, because it’s all in there and this is one of the methods.

    People who have been watching “the news” in Vermont have probably notice the up tick in coverage of our police force. From reading the papers and the long drawn out articles on bad interactions, you’d think our police force is highly corrupt. It’s propaganda.

    30,000 interactions with people who might be breaking the law and only 200 get forceful? That is amazing, can you imagine how much restraint that must require?

    Remember the long drawn out expose that was non stop with regard to our “anti-Semitic” state police? It went on for ever, then the video came out. The State Police could not have been more polite, meanwhile the Rabbi in talking about his weight as a description says, “Don’t tell my wife”…I think she knew, too funny.

    Thank God for the video. There’s a reason why the super majority WILL NOT FUND body cams for our police officers, they don’t want them. They can’t accuse the police of “crimes” if the body cam is on.

    Our police officers desperately need these cams so they can be protected from false accusations. Every criminal on the planet accused the police of false arrests, ‘cept our “press” think it’s a new thing and report it as shocking evidence that clearly our police force has gone astray.

    Sadly this one article, exposing some truth will be overshadowed by massive propaganda all year round. Our officers need to be held accountable, they also need to be commended for the excellent work they do and consistently commended in the public eye, to do otherwise is just unfair to say the least.

    We’re missing the boat, peace and prosperity are leaving our shores. Vermont needs to turn the corner.

  4. Give me a break, who’s the one whining, probably the one that’s drunk or stoned just a
    scourge on society……………..and that’s the problem “NO” respect for authority !!

    It’s pretty simple when you’re stopped by a Police Officer, don’t start by telling them you
    know you’re rights ” They know you don’t ” show a little respect or you’re off to jail probably
    Hand Cuffed …………… that’s not ” police brutality ” that’s law enforcement !!

Comments are closed.