Burlington Mayor Miro Weinberger has selected Burlington Police Department Acting Chief Jon Murad to lead the agency permanently, pending full City Council approval.
Weinberger announced his decision on Jan. 27, just over two years since the department last had a permanent police chief. Murad has been leading the department in an interim capacity for about 20 months. His potential confirmation will be discussed at the next City Council meeting on Jan. 31.
The chief search was delayed because of the COVID-19 pandemic and again after too few candidates applied. Murad was one of two viable candidates for the job as of December, and became the last candidate standing this month when the other applicant dropped out of the process, Weinberger said.
Weinberger said Murad has already served the Burlington Police Department with distinction during “one of the most challenging periods in its 150-year history.”
“Burlington’s next police chief will need to turn around troubling local crime trends, work to eliminate racial bias and racial disparities from policing and law enforcement, and stabilize and rebuild our department,” Weinberger said Thursday. “I know that Chief Murad is up to this enormous challenge because he has already demonstrated he can do it.
Police union supports, council split over Murad confirmation
The Burlington Police Officers’ Association, the officers’ union, along with department sergeants and lieutenants, expressed support for Murad’s appointment on Thursday. The union has been skeptical of Murad’s leadership in the past, including when he was hired as a deputy chief in 2018.
“Since being appointed, Acting Chief Murad has gallantly led this organization through crises which few agencies experience,” the union wrote in a statement posted to Facebook. “He has done so while retaining the respect and consideration of the bargaining unit and meeting the needs of the public.
On the other hand, all six Progressive City Councilors, which make up half the council, said they oppose Murad’s appointment and plan to vote against his confirmation on Monday. If they all vote no, this would mean Murad’s appointment would be rejected.
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In a joint statement, the progressive councilors called the search process “flawed” and called on Weinberger to restart the search process with funds the City Council authorized to hire a search firm.
“Burlington needs a permanent Chief of Police who demonstrates a commitment to transforming public safety in Burlington,” the Progressive Councilors wrote. “Right now, Jon Murad is not that candidate.”
How we got to this point
In late 2019, former Burlington Police Chief Brandon del Pozo stepped down after members of the public learned he had created an anonymous social media account to troll one of his critics on Twitter. Deputy Chief Jan Wright, who had been tapped to serve as acting chief, also stepped down in early 2020 after her own anonymous social media accounts were discovered. Wright had been using her anonymous accounts to discuss police matters online, often criticizing members of the City Council.
In January 2020, the City Council confirmed former Colchester Police Chief Jennifer Morrison to lead the department on an interim basis while the search for a permanent chief unfolded. Morrison stepped down later that year, citing the decision by the City Council to reduce the number of officers as one of her main reasons for leaving.
Murad had been serving as acting chief since mid-2020 after Morrison went on a planned leave of absence to focus on her husband’s health issues. On Thursday, he referred to his time as acting chief as a “20-month job interview,” and said he has much more to give to the city.
“I don’t consider this job interview over, to be frank,” Murad said, adding that he plans to work hard to earn the trust of people who are skeptical of his appointment.
Contact Elizabeth Murray at 802-310-8585 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter at @LizMurrayBFP.