ACLU Statement on Spread of Misinformation in Burlington Policing Debate

Montpelier, Vt. – The ACLU of Vermont sent a letter to Burlington Mayor Miro Weinberger today calling on him and other Burlington leaders to provide the public with complete and accurate information about public safety and policing in the Queen City. The ACLU points to the Burlington Police Department’s (BPD) own data showing crime is down significantly this year, in the midst of new police reform initiatives and a reduction in the police force. The evidence of declining crime runs counter to repeated claims by the Mayor, Burlington’s Acting Police Chief Jon Murad, and other public officials calling for more policing.

The ACLU is urging city leaders to reject false narratives, follow through on promises made in response to BIPOC-led racial justice protests last summer, and to pay greater attention to pandemic-related mental health needs, a rise in overdoses, and increasing racial disparities in BPD use of force incidents.

The Burlington City Council meets on Monday, and an anticipated report on policing in Burlington will likely be under review.

ACLU of Vermont General Counsel Jay Diaz: “To advance racial justice and a more inclusive, safe, and equitable community, Burlington residents have called for greater police accountability and a reduced police presence. Burlington has responded and is making great progress, but the work of reimagining public safety and reducing the footprint of law enforcement has only just begun.

That’s why it is so damaging for public officials in Burlington to pedal false narratives about public safety when they know that crime is down and that the reforms already underway are working. BPD leadership in particular has fanned fears of a non-existent crime wave with a record number of press releases, misleading and inflammatory rhetoric, and questionable staffing decisions. Meanwhile, the city faces a mental health crisis and a drastic rise in overdoses, as well as increased racial disparities in police use of force incidents. This is unacceptable.

The people of Burlington don’t want to be misled by their police force or by city leadership. They want more accountable police and social services that prevent and address crime better, more efficiently, and more effectively than status quo policing. They deserve a police department that respects their wishes, reflects their values, and tells them the truth.”

The letter can be downloaded here or viewed below.