Burlington councilors ready to block Murad’s nomination as police chief

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Updated at 8:52 p.m.

Burlington city councilors are set to block Mayor Miro Weinberger’s nomination of interim chief Jon Murad as the next queen city cop.

Just hours after Weinberger announced Murad’s nomination Thursday afternoon, the board’s six-member progressive caucus released a statement saying it would vote against Murad at Monday’s meeting.

“We want to make it abundantly clear that Mayor Weinberger does not have the votes on City Council to confirm Interim Chief Murad as Burlington’s permanent police chief,” Progs’ statement said, calling the appointment source of division and controversy.

“Burlington needs a permanent police chief who demonstrates his commitment to transforming public safety in Burlington,” the statement continued. “Right now, Jon Murad is not that candidate.”

In response, Weinberger chief of staff Jordan Redell said the Progs had already done damage to the department – especially with their vote in the summer of 2020 to cut the force by 30% through attrition with no further plans. public safety in place.

Opposing Murad’s nomination shows the party is “ready to undermine the police department again,” she wrote in an emailed statement. “For the good of the City and to advance our many public safety challenges, let’s hope they come to their senses before Monday.”

But Weinberger, a Democrat, may have to convince more than the Progs to change course. While the Progs votes alone could thwart Murad’s nomination with a 6-6 tie, two other councilors signaled they would not vote for Murad either. Councilors Ali Dieng (I-Ward 7) and Sarah Carpenter (D-Ward 4) both said Seven days that they are concerned that the research process was not adequate.

Weinberger to appoint Jon Murad as Burlington’s next police chief

Weinberger to appoint Jon Murad as Burlington’s next police chief

By Courtney Lambin

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Dieng said he was disappointed that Weinberger ignored the council’s desire to open a broader search late last year after the city’s process narrowed down only two viable candidates – Murad and another candidate. , who was not named.

After some back and forth with progressive advisers over how to broaden the candidate pool, Weinberger issued an ultimatum. He said he would choose one of the two finalists unless the advisers agreed to offer a higher salary; hire a professional research firm; and hire a ministry spokesperson and recruiter.

He also demanded that advisers agree to maintain the new chief’s authority over officer discipline – a direct contradiction to a previous progressive proposal to create an independent watchdog.

When the advisers only agreed to hire a research firm, Weinberger announced that he would go ahead with the finalists instead.

“It shows the lack of collaboration,” Dieng said Thursday, “and we have to get it right.”

Councilman Carpenter said she is not comfortable voting for Murad at this time, when he has not been endorsed by the city’s police chief’s search committee. She lamented that the band didn’t play a bigger role in Weinberger’s decision. The mayor said he hoped to include members of the search committee in interviews with finalists, but the other unnamed candidate pulled out before that meeting could be arranged.

“It didn’t seem like a fair use of everyone’s time when we only had one candidate,” Weinberger said.

The city has been without a permanent police chief since December 2019, when former chief Brandon del Pozo resigned amid a social media scandal. A Vermonter and former NYPD cop, Murad served as deputy chief of del Pozo for nearly two years before being named acting chief in June 2020.

Murad has been at the center of contentious debates since then, starting with the police slate vote, which he strongly opposed. Months later, protesters occupied Battery Park, just outside the police station, for a month to demand that three officers be fired for allegedly violent behavior.

Click to enlarge
Mayor Miro Weinberger, left, and Acting Chief Jon Murad - COURTNEY LAMDIN ©️ SEVEN DAYS

  • Courtney Lambin©️ Seven days
  • Mayor Miro Weinberger, left, and acting leader Jon Murad

At a press conference Thursday afternoon, Weinberger said Murad had been through one of the toughest times in the department’s 150-year history. The next leader must stabilize a “decimated” police force, the mayor said, and work to eliminate racial disparities in policing.

“I know Chef Murad is ready for this huge challenge because he has already demonstrated he can do it,” Weinberger said.

Murad has already won the trust of the Burlington Police Officers’ Association, whose members issued a statement calling on the council to support Murad’s candidacy. Several uniformed and off-duty officers attended the press conference at City Hall.

“Acting Chief Murad has courageously led this organization through crises that few agencies experience,” the statement said. “No other chef has achieved what Chef Jon Murad was able to accomplish.”

Weinberger noted that the union previously opposed Murad’s hiring as deputy chief in 2018, and again when Murad briefly served as acting chief in late 2019. He urged Burlingtonians who have similar doubts to “give Chief Murad a fresh start and a chance to earn a living”. trust.”

Murad, who billed his tenure as a “20-month job interview,” pledged to work for that trust, saying he’s optimistic he can help Burlingtonians find common ground in discussions. on public safety.

“I want to serve this city,” he said. “I don’t consider this job interview over.”

Others have come to Murad’s defense, including candidates seeking to unseat Murad’s critics on the day of the town meeting. Democrat Aleczander Stith, one of Dieng’s opponents in Ward 7, said in a press release late Thursday that Murad could help rebuild the department, which “continues to bleed experienced officers.”

“I strongly disagree with anyone who thinks it’s okay to continue with the status quo,” Stith said. He urged the board to appoint Murad, who “has the support of his peers, his employees, the public and my support as well.”

Rob Gutman, a Democrat challenging Councilman Zoraya Hightower (P-Ward 1), said in a press release Thursday that the city must move forward with a qualified candidate and that he supports Murad’s nomination.

“Over the past few months I have spoken to hundreds of Burlingtonians and there is near universal concern for the state of public safety in our community,” Gutman said. “For this reason, it is deeply disappointing that some city councilors have already pledged to block the appointment of the acting police chief.”

Carpenter acknowledged that people are frustrated that the research has dragged on, but said that was no reason to rush the decision, which she called “too important not to trust the person we appoint”.

Dieng agreed, noting that he suggested Weinberger wait until after the March 1 election to vote on the leader’s nomination. He said he couldn’t understand why the mayor would go ahead when his choice didn’t have the votes.

“It looks like he is wasting our time and playing politics,” Dieng said. “I don’t know what he has in mind.”

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