Burlington City Council appoints Jon Murad as the city’s top cop
After three years as the acting police chief in Vermont’s largest city, Jon Murad is now officially Burlington’s top cop. The city council voted 8-4 on Monday to approve his appointment to the position.
It’s the second time that Murad’s been up for consideration; last year Progressives on the council blocked his appointment, citing concerns that he wasn’t committed to reforming the department.
“The mayor has put forward a more-than-qualified-candidate,” said Democratic City Councilor Ben Traverse during Monday’s meeting. “I generally believe our duly-elected mayor and future mayors are deserving of their appointments… I'm also deeply concerned that a ‘no’ vote by this council will further demoralize our police department and deal a significant blow to our efforts to address recruitment and retention.”
On Monday night, Progressive councilors raised similar concerns to the ones they voiced last year.
“What I saw in the job descriptions were requirements for commitment to and leadership in transformation 21st-century policing,” said Progressive City Councilor Zoraya Hightower. “This means not using broken windows policing, not trying to explain but rather acknowledging and addressing discrepancies and bias in the police department, and supporting citizen oversight.”
Data from the city has shown that Burlington Police disproportionate arrest and use force against Black people, but Murad told the council Monday that he doesn’t think those disparities mean there’s bias in the department.
“What I see is the existence of these disparities in the results, and I don't see that disparity is the same as bias — I don't believe that they are the same,” Murad said. "And I believe that if we see examples where officer bias is causing these situations, I will absolutely take action on those.”
All four Progressives on the council voted against Murad’s appointment, while the six Democrats, plus the two Independents on the council, voted to make him the permanent chief.
Mayor Miro Weinberger announced in late May that he was going to bring Murad’s appointment back before the council, where the political makeup shifted in favor of the Democrats this year on Town Meeting Day.
Murad has led the department through a series of challenges, including staffing shortages that came after the council voted to cap the size of the department in 2020, a month-long racial justice protest in front of the department, and a spike in shootingslast year.
Under Murad’s leadership, the department has instituted several reforms, including releasing body camera footage of use-of-force incidents, hiring more unarmed, non-sworn community service officers, and developing a plan to increase the department’s headcount.
But his actions have also stirred controversy. In 2021, the American Civil Liberties Union of Vermontaccused Murad of misrepresenting the city’s crime statistics in a “campaign of misinformation” intended to drum up support for increasing the police funding after the city council voted to cap the number of officers in the department.
More recently, a surgeon at the University of Vermont Medical Center filed a complaint with the city’s police commission alleging that Murad threatened to arrest him while the surgeon was treating a gunshot victim, according to Seven Days.
Burlington hasn’t had a permanent police chief since chief Brandon del Pozo resigned in December 2019 after admitting to creating a fake social media account to belittle a critic.
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