BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) – For more than two years, the Burlington Police Department has operated without a permanent chief, and the decision to fill the position now lies in the hands of the City Council.
So, how did the department end up like this? Channel 3′s Cam Smith takes us back in time to when Acting Chief Jon Murad started his journey here.
“Today, I am announcing that I am appointing Jon Murad to serve as Burlington’s next police chief,” Mayor Miro Weinberger, D-Burlington, said in a press conference Thursday.
Jon Murad was sworn in at the Burlington Police Department in 2018. After working for the NYPD and spending time in the private sector, Murad returned to his home state to serve as Burlington’s deputy chief, second in command to then-police Chief Brandon del Pozo.
“I missed working with cops,” Murad told Channel 3 News after the ceremony.
Just a year into Murad’s tenure, the department was reeling from a social media scandal. In July of 2019, del Pozo lied to reporters about using a fake twitter account to troll a city critic.
“I had told the Mayor what I had done and gave me some time to process that and talk to people. The next day I was put on leave,” del Pozo told Channel 3 News that December.
By then, the reigns were turned over to Interim Chief Jan Wright. But, just hours after that announcement, Wright admitted to using Facebook for a similar purpose. Murad was made acting chief amid the mess.
“I hope this incident makes clear that is not what we expect from city officials,” Weinberger told constituents.
But, that didn’t last long. Weinberger recruited Jennifer Morrison, the former deputy chief in Burlington and chief of police in Colchester.
Her stint as interim chief came with a new set of challenges, The onset of the pandemic and the murder of George Floyd.
“It is horrifying, and it is a perversion of everything that American police are meant to do,” Morrison said in May of 2020.
By June, Morrison stepped away to care for her ailing husband and never came back, once again turning the job over to Murad.
By the end of August, Black Lives Matter protestors occupied Battery Park for weeks, demanding three officers accused of excessive force be fired.
Soon after, the City council passed a resolution to cut the department by 30%, and for the last 20 months, Murad has vocally opposed the move.
“We are going to start getting closer to that 74 number than I feel comfortable with, quicker than I think we want,” Murad said.
Since May of 2021, the search for permanent chief was on. Eight months later, the Mayor named his pick for the position.
“The community and the agency need to know that we have a stable leadership, that we have a police force that is stabilizing,” Murad told Channel 3 News Thursday.
Monday night, the City Council will vote on whether to approve Murad for the position, but Progressives have already voiced opposition.
“What I’ve seen from Acting Chief Murad is a resistance to the transformative changes that we need to make,” Joe Magee, P-Burlington City Council, said.
It’s not clear what will happen if the Council votes no on, but Progressives are calling on the Mayor to reopen the search for other candidates.
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