Two police departments take different paths on calls to defund

In the wake of George Floyd’s death by the knee of a Minneapolis police officer one month ago, activists across the nation are urging police departments to defund or even disarm. Two police departments in Vermont have responded differently to such demands.

The Burlington Police Department has responded by proposing $1.1 million in cuts to its budget at the request of Mayor Miro Weinberger. Of that money, $300,000 would go to social services and the rest would cover revenue shortfalls caused by Gov. Phil Scott’s coronavirus-related economic shutdown.

The Brattleboro Police Department, on the other hand, has not announced any cuts, but instead will review its 2022 budget and allow voices from outside the department to contribute to the conversation.

According to acting Burlington Police Chief Jon Murad, the budget Weinberger submitted shouldn’t prevent the force from doing its job.

Burlington Police Department Facebook

Acting Burlington Police Chief Jon Murad

“The budget submitted by the mayor provides for a 10% cut to the BPD budget,” he told True North in an email. “We worked with him and it is a fair budget largely necessitated by COVID-19-associated revenue projections. It does not contain cuts of any officers. It puts the BPD on a razor’s edge for maintaining services, but it still allows us to keep people safe.”

Murad said some activists are calling for 30 percent cuts, which would limit the department’s ability to effectively police the community.

“Thirty percent cuts means firing as many as 18 police officers,” he said. “Because of contractual rules, it means firing our newest officers, who are diverse, well-trained, optimistic and motivated by a deep desire to serve. Becoming a 75-officer agency also means ending most or all of the positions BPD has created over the years to do more than mere 911 response.”

He added that extra police services can include crime prevention and dealing with people who have disorders before an emergency occurs. He said dramatic cuts would require the potential loss of extra community foot patrols, school resource officers, the domestic violence prevention officer, a community affairs officer and the emergency response officer.

“Cuts mean pulling back many of these positions,” Murad said. “A 30% budget reduction will erase the last 20 years’ progress in community policing. It will send us back to reactive 911-driven policing rather than proactive community engagement that provides prevention.”

The Burlington Police Department’s use-of-force techniques came under scrutiny recently after three separate incidents on camera showed suspects getting injured during arrests. In one altercation in March 2019, a local resident died three days after a confrontation by a police officer. A review determined that the arresting officer was not at fault.

In two non-fatal incidents in September 2018, Mabior Jok and Congolese immigrant Jérémie Meli, both black men, were arrested in separate back-to-back altercations. Police bodycam footage of the incidents fueled debate over whether police use too much force.

But Brattleboro, located in the southeastern part of the state in Windham County, has not caved to pressure to defund. Police Chief Michael Fitzgerald told True North that the town is setting up a special committee to take a look at the fiscal year 2022 budget.

Brattleboro Police Department

Brattleboro Police Chief Michael Fitzgerald

“We’re going to have representatives from across the community and basically to see how we can make the department better,” he said.

Fitzgerald added that he’s open to a broad review of how money is allocated.

“I think that everything should be looked at,” he said. “If that’s what the community wants, I think that is a function of the governing body to look at the budget as a whole and say, ‘OK this is how much we want to fund human services, this is what we want our police department to look like.’ I think it’s a big conversation and I think they need to look at the big picture.”

Fitzgerald said that part of his department’s strategy in dealing with social justice issues is keeping good communication with those groups.

“We talk to a lot of different groups, that’s for sure,” he said. “Brattleboro has a lot of grassroots organizations that we are constantly in contact with. We have representation with the Community Equity Collaborative, we have representation on the Diverse Workforce Committee, so yeah we make ourselves available to anybody that wants to have a conversation.”

Fitzgerald said he is not in favor of disarming the police, however. The call to disarm police has been suggested by some radical activists. Last year a city council member in Burlington also advocated for taking guns away from officers.

“That certainly has been talked about across the nation, and yeah, I’m obviously against that,” Fitzgerald said.

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

Images courtesy of Brattleboro Police Department and Burlington Police Department Facebook

12 thoughts on “Two police departments take different paths on calls to defund

  1. Since our current leadership here in Vermont doesn’t read anything but VtDigger, would someone pass the following link on to the governor or his handlers?

    Vermont is the victim of news censorship. VtDigger now controls the comment section by disabling the link so people can’t read what commenters are saying. When the news media is an arm of a political party or movement, they are no longer the FREE PRESS! Let hat sink in. Below please bookmark the two links to conservative sites for news from across the country. Vermont is an island for news blackouts by the corporate media and those claiming to be journalists as 501c3 nonprofit companies. If you are funding digger you are part of the conspiracy to censor the news.

  2. I can only say that I am not surprised at these two departments response.

    I will leave at what I have been saying for a long time.

    We need to stop apologizing for things were are not responsible for. Leadership is having the fortitude to stand up for what is right regardless of who you offend.

  3. Have a wonderful idea. Defund the police departments thus allowing vandalism, riots, looting and murder in the streets, and then use all those dollars to pay for cleaning up the mess. If there are not suffecient funds to pay for all this destruction of other peoples’ property, just simply raise taxes. Problem solved OR provide for level or increased funding and keep the piece. The choice is all yours.

  4. The fact that they want to divert money to social services, is an admission that we have a lot of screwed up people in society. Its also an indicator that liberalism has failed to produce the promised utopia. How about we start in the home and let parents discipline children for a start.

    • The way it’s been done for hundreds of years in some parts of the State. Solve the problem, nobody knows anything, and everybody learns the limits.

  5. So Burlington’s Liberal Mayor Miro decides to reduce the Police Operating Budget
    by $1.1M….. why??…….. oh yea, agenda politics, factless statements.

    I don’t believe there is one person that doesn’t feel the death ” Killing ” of Mr. Floyd
    was tragic and the officer should be dealt with the full power of the legal system
    has to offer for this horrendous crime !!

    If the Mayor feels there is a case for ” systemic racism ” within the police dept, then
    the money should be used to reeducate those with concerns, or have the individual
    removed from service.

    I have lived in Burlington my entire life (69) years and I have seen a more ” diverse ”
    police department then what we have today and they are doing an outstanding job
    dealing with all the issues within the Queen-City.

    I believe the Mayor is mandating these changes do to the pressure from the gaggle
    of fools protesting only, no facts or data just hype from outside sources……..

    We need ” leadership” in the City that has Debt, Crime, Drugs, homeless issues, what
    we have is a ” follower “…….. Pretty Pathetic !!

    • It’s a landing platform, part of Vermont becoming the first colony in the USA for the United Nations. Miro’s just pimpin’ his way up the ladder to be a New World Order stooge. Some people will do anything for money, power and fame. They have been systematically working with cities, building up strong holds, trying to sway things.

      Vermont is the their first prize…..with a close second for California.

      Where ever the NWO has taken over the democratic party things are unaffordable, crime, broken families, drugs, little opportunity….Vermont is headed down that path, give it time.

  6. How about this? How about we spend more!

    Since we all know where every drug dealer is, in every small town, how about we put some extra money into our police department to curb the drug dealers?

    We have a massive drug problem in our state. Should be able to at the very least keep drugs out of our high schools. That would be a good start.

    • Interestingly, there’s been zero discussion of bounties as yet.

      Jes’ wonderin’…

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