Burlington Mayor Miro 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.