Burlington Acting Police Chief Jon Murad nominated, again, for permanent role
The mayor of Vermont's largest city is trying for a second time to install the current acting police chief as the city's top cop. Burlington hasn't had a permanent police chief since late 2019.
“Our city needs and deserves a strong and reliable leader in our police department, and we have been fortunate to have one in Chief Murad,” Mayor Miro Weinberger said on Thursday during a press conference. “We need his leadership in order to continue to make public safety progress in what is certain to be a challenging year ahead.”
Jon Murad has served as acting chief for nearly three years, and was nominated by Weinberger to become the permanent chief last January. But the City Council, voting six-to-six, rejected his appointment. Progressives on the council raised concerns about Murad’s willingness to embrace reforms and his interactions with the city’s police commission, according to Seven Days.
After the council vote last year, Weinberger, a Democrat, said that Muard would remain acting chief indefinitely, though he indicated he’d re-nominate Murad if the political makeup of the council shifted, which it did this year on Town Meeting Day. There are now six Democrats, four Progressives, and two Independents on the council. Murard would need seven votes to be appointed the permanent chief.
More from Vermont Edition:Police—and community leaders—respond to reports of rising crime around Burlington
Muard has led the Queen City’s police force through a series of challenges and controversies, including the City Council’s decision to cap the department’s size and subsequent staffing shortage, a month-long racial justice protest in front of the station, and a record number of shootings last year.
On Thursday, Murad said it has been his “privilege” to serve the city.
“I have tried my best to face deep challenges with compassion and integrity,” Murad said. “It's been a long three years and maybe some of the longest in our city … but I have committed my entire career to making policing better.”
It's been a long three years and maybe some of the longest in our city … but I have committed my entire career to making policing betterJon Murad, acting Burlington Police Chief
The acting chief’s conduct has also been under scrutiny, and his conduct in one instance is being reviewed by the Vermont Criminal Justice Council, which investigates police misconduct and can sanction officers.
According to Seven Days, a surgeon at the University of Vermont Medical Center filed a complaint with the city’s police commission, alleging Murad threatened to arrest him while the surgeon was treating a gunshot victim. The police commission forwarded the complaint to the Vermont Criminal Justice Council in October.
The criminal justice council’s investigation into Murad’s alleged conduct is still pending, according to Weinberger. The mayor said on Thursday he thought it would be a “mistake” to wait until the council finishes their investigation.
“We could be many months from resolution — that's what our attorney has advised,” Weinberger said. “And the attorney has also advised that it is highly unlikely that the VCJC is going to find there to be a serious violation.”
Christopher Brickell, deputy director of the Vermont Criminal Justice Council, said in an email that he couldn’t comment on the status of any potential complaint.
Murad has also come under fire about his knowledge of a contract that allowed Burlington police officers to work private security shifts at a condo complex during a time when the force was experiencing an acute staff shortage, Seven Days reported.
More from Vermont Public: Burlington Police Chief Resigns, Department's Social Media Policy Under Review
Following these recent controversies some city councilors, including Democrats, expressed uncertainty about whether they’d support Muard’s re-appointment.
City Councilor Ali Dieng, an Independent, said on Thursday that he hasn’t made up his mind if he’ll support Murad. He voted to appoint Murad last year.
“In terms of qualification, Muard has demonstrated great work in rebuilding the department,” Dieng said in a phone interview. “But I mean, I think he needs to do better in terms of building relationships, you know, with the community and with the Progressives. And I'm not sure if Murad has the bandwidth to be able to do it.”
I think he needs to do better in terms of building relationships, you know, with the community and with the Progressives. And I'm not sure if Murad has the bandwidth to be able to do itCity Councilor Ali Dieng
Progressives on the council appear unlikely to support Murad’s nomination. City Councilor Joe Magee said there likely isn’t a path forward.
“I don't think he's reached out to anybody else to try and address concerns that have been raised about his lack of collaboration,” Magee told reporters after the mayor’s press conference. “Now that we're two weeks away from that meeting, I don't know that there's a path forward for that, for myself, anyway.”
The Queen City hasn’t had a permanent police chief since late 2019, when chief Brandon del Pozo resigned after admitting that he created a fake Twitter account to belittle a critic.
Questions, comments or tips? Send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org