Foot patrols down by half, plus morale issues challenge Burlington Police

The Burlington Police Department continues to struggle with staffing shortages even after City Council voted to increase the number of slots available for the department to fill.

“There is no avoiding it, we do not have sufficient resources to cover the city in the same way that we have when we are down by more than 50% on patrol,” acting Police Chief Jon Murad said Tuesday evening in his report to the Burlington Police Commission.

“And so we will be talking about new deployment plans and how we wrestle with that and serve parts of the city that clearly need that kind of service, and where do we focus resources with what we have.”

The department is currently operating with 64 officers, but only 58 are available for everyday needs such as foot patrols. As recently as June of 2020, the department had 92 officers.

“What this means, unfortunately, is that the total number of officers available for patrol for the uniformed services bureau is 24,” Murad said. “That is less than 50 percent of what our normal numbers are for patrol in the past, where routinely it’s 52 to 54 non-supervisory officers available for patrol.”

Burlington Police Department Facebook

NEEDS MORE OFFICERS: Acting Burlington Police Chief Jon Murad said the BPD continues to face challenges related to deep cuts in the number of people on the force.

This year, there have been 3,872 total incidents reported to the department, as of March 20. That’s compared to 3,504 incidents reported at this point a year ago.

Those incidents include a lot of “priority 1” incidents — more serious calls such as assaults, crashes and robberies.

“It’s the first highest or the second-highest of the past several years,” Murad said.

Murad talked about how difficult and can be to recruit new officers for Burlington, and that the city is on a slow pace to get back to a healthy level of protection.

“What that means is, for us to grow by as many as 20 to 25 officers over the next five to ten years, that will require extraordinary years compared to the past history,” he said.

Murad noted that simply retaining the officers currently on the force is a challenge. Typically it’s hoped that officers stay on for about 20 years and then retire, but that’s not what’s been happening.

“We see resignations prior to retirement, and we see a significant number of them. Some of them happen at the police academy very early in an officer’s career, others happen at different stages and for different reasons,” he said. “Obviously that has been far more pronounced over the past two years.”

The department is trying incentives to lure new applicants, including a $15,000 hiring incentive. Also, starting pay is around $63,000.

In addition to seeking to hire more uniformed officers, the city is looking towards “community service officers” (CSOs). These are officers who can respond to certain non-violent situations when a  uniformed police officer is unavailable.

“Every morning officers are leaving emails for the CSOs,” Murad said.

Seven of these positions are currently filled; the Police Commission voted to add two more at Tuesday’s meeting.

Murad said CSOs give a service level that officers often can’t, and that they “fill a gap that previously was not being bridged.” He suggested in the future they might even accompany uniformed officers for “co-deployments.”

Also, Burlington has hired three community support liaisons, whose purpose it is to engage with the public.

With anti-police sentiment entrenched on City Council plus deep cuts to the force, the city’s current roster of officers are struggling with morale. Murad said he hopes to address this with additional training and also “mission setting and visioning.”

A 2021 June report by KOUW.org indicates that police morale nationwide has been a concern.

“A June survey of nearly 200 departments by the Police Executive Research Forum (PERF), a nonprofit think tank, shows a startling 45% increase in the retirement rate and a nearly 20% increase in resignations in 2020-21 compared to the previous year,” the report states.

Murad also noted that the City of Burlington itself is not seen among regional officers as the most welcoming place to work over recent years.

“I think getting people from in-state is going to be a real challenge,” he said. “People in the profession look at this department and the city and the challenges that we’ve had over the past two years, and it is not an attractive package for them.”

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
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6 thoughts on “Foot patrols down by half, plus morale issues challenge Burlington Police

  1. Yet the property owners still pay the property taxes which subsidize the renters, students and deadbeats. If this is what the property owners want, then by all means keep paying the taxes. If you don’t the like situation, then you have 2 choices: stop paying the tax or keep parting with your money. Very simple.

  2. Members of the U.S. Marshals personally told me that the Burlington Police Department was a poor excuse for law enforcement. That was back in the early 1990s. I daresay it’s gotten worse since then, considering the continuous socialist control exerted over municipal government.

  3. Burlington was flushed down the progressive toilet long ago and things will only get
    worse. They continue to elect those destroying the city stupid is as stupid does. All we can
    do is not support any doing business there and eventually it’ll die on the vine.

  4. If the woke city councilors, elected by the indoctrinated uvm students have perpetual say, Burlington will decriminilize many crime offenses…leading to a statistical reduction in crime and an increase in what we all actually view as unacceptable behavior that should be remedied by fines, jailtime or a combination of both. Not to mention overall public safety will continue to decline. I rarely go to Burlington anymore. If i do, i carry two pistols; one in SOB and one ankle holster. I’ll go to jail or die before iam a victim of these completely avoidable crimes. Thanks marxists!

  5. Well, Burlington, this is what you get when you have a gaggle of liberal fools making
    decisions that they don’t have any understanding of police practices, all they know is
    they are trying to please an agenda…………… pretty pathetic !!

    If property owners feel that they are getting their money’s worth, keep voting these
    inept clowns into these positions …………………..

    • The problem in Burlington electoral politics now is that “property owners” have become a minority at the polls. Elections in Burlington are increasingly being decided by those with little skin in the game: students, subsidized renters and deadbeats. To give credit where credit is due, the Progressives have solved one of Burlington’s most chronic and complained-about problems of the past…the lack of parking. They have accomplished this even with the large number of spaces eliminated to create bike lanes and pedestrian-friendly intersections. There is now PLENTY of parking throughout Burlington even at peak hours and on weekends. Well done, Progressives!

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