Burlington mayor stops special-duty policing at condos

Police chief says officers respond to less than half of all calls 

River Watch condos

By Guy Page

Mayor Miro Weinberger says Burlington police officers will no longer work off-duty security for the River Watch condo development.

Public outcry against the private policing has been strong. Many crime-fearing Burlingtonians say it’s unfair for any private organization to rent Burlington police services while the entire city is suffering from reduced police coverage amid unprecedented higher rates of many forms of crime.   

River Watch is a 215-unit condo association by the Winooski River, east of Pearl Street and the Winooski Bridge. 

“Generally, our practice of allowing voluntary extra-duty police service agreements for special events provides broad public safety benefits, and at no cost to taxpayers,” Weinberger said in a January 31 statement. “However, I agree with many who have shared their concerns that the recent contract with a private condo association is problematic. This specific off-duty detail was unique, not consistent with City policy we negotiated in 2018, and will not continue.”

But Weinberger also pointed out what many other Burlingtonians also are saying about the city’s lack of policing.

“Of much greater concern is that any neighborhood in the City feels that they need to pay out of pocket for basic public safety services,” he said. “We need to get back to a place as soon as possible where we consistently have a strong public safety presence and the resources to provide an immediate response to any person who calls for police support as we have historically.”

Burlington PD was underfunded even before the Progressive-led City Council placed a moratorium on new patrol officer positions in 2020, following the killing of George Floyd. Despite aggressive bonus offers and widespread marketing for new police officers, the department as of early January had only 22 active patrol officers.

As a result, BPD triages responses to calls for assistance. “We stack or defer to online reporting 25% of calls and send [unarmed, quasi-police] Community Service Officers or Community Service Liaisons to another 25%—that is, we send police to 50% fewer calls,” Chief Jon Murad said. “We are down about 60% of patrol staffing. It is these deficits, together with the attendant rise in some crimes, that creates a feeling that service is inadequate throughout the city as a whole.”

Weinberger explained that It has long been the practice of the City of Burlington, as it is in most cities, to allow its police officers union to accept contracts with outside parties for the purpose of voluntary extra duty details.

Generally, these details help improve public safety broadly at no cost to taxpayers by ensuring that our trained and licensed local officers (in lieu of private security companies or officers from other agencies) are providing traffic control and are available to respond quickly at construction sites and for major public events including sports games, parades, festivals, the observance of major religious holidays, the marathon and other road races, and more.

It is common that City permits for such events include terms that require a certain number of police officers be present.

The Mayor directed the Department leadership to not renew the contract which expired on January 1, 2023, and to not approve any similar contracts. In total, BPD officers worked 220 hours at River Watch. Of the 20,000 total overtime hours worked by BPD in 2022, approximately 875 hours were extra duty for outside organizations.

About Vermont Daily Chronicle: every weekday, we publish 10 Vermont-related news and commentary articles. Subscriptions to Vermont Daily Chronicle are free. Subscribing takes less than one minute: click here to subscribe and receive the daily edition in your email. The Vermont Daily Chronicle is supported almost exclusively by Contributing Readers who appreciate our unique place in the Vermont news media and generously give $108/year (some give more, some less) via PayPal or by writing a check to Vermont Daily Chronicle, P.O. Box 1547, Montpelier Vermont, 05641.

Categories: Burlington

6 replies »

  1. The only problem I saw with this program is that the officers were in their BPD uniforms and using BPD cruisers. I dont know what the policy is for them carrying their official firearms, but as long as they are not discharged, that doesn’t cost the Burlington taxpayers a dime. If the officers were making double their usual pay, they may now opt to quit the BPD and work privately full time. Some may figure that it is worth working for BPD as long as they can also have this side gig but now the lack of respect and appreciation they get from the marxist City Council and some activist citizen groups makes the situation intolerable. What these officers do on their own free time is their business. Burlington being run by commies is a lost cause. The majority of the voting base now are rent-subsidy deadbeats and student renters who dont directly pay property taxes so they vote for all this socialist nonsense thinking it comes out of someone else’s pocket. It’s such a shame what has happened to Burlington.

    • I think it’s time for the residents of Burlington to fend for themselves. If they can’t properly vote to secure a sane city council that would act like adults then too bad. Buy firearms and learn safe operation because you elitist voters are headed for a dystopian city like all other liberal rundown, crime ridden cities across the country. Remember, it’s always been survival of the fittest. Let your college students vote you into the dangers you will face. Ignore the words of people who have experienced and escaped those cities. Keep up with all your virtue signaling by inviting dangerous diversity to your downtown. We all know that felons will obey Phil Baruth on his quest to disarm everyone except the criminals. So, all of you police officers who are disrespected by the SJWs and the virtuous of the city, just leave it to them. We’ll get to see how that all works out. Probably a real life version of the Purge. Good luck!

    • This is spot on. Burlington is lost. It’ll take 3-4 generations to dig out of the Marxist hole it has managed to create. During that time we should expect a crime ridden, dystopian based Mordor on Lake Champlain that slowly descends into violence, misery and hopelessness. My family and I no longer patronize that once great city. It’s really a tragedy but a good illustration on what really happens to municipalities run by activists with high ideals but zero principles.

      • Oh, and too bad for the 280 unit condo that just lost their high priced police protection. Imagine that, the city residents need protection but the city council, like little brats cut the budget. But, those high and mighty condo owners got to buy their city police protection even after paying city property taxes. This is a comedy of errors and the great professor steps in to tell a Chief of police that he isn’t doing his job. This is what happens when progressives run things. Thank you Vermont voter for destroying our state and it’s cities with your virtue signaling votes. You apparently have no shame and you can’t be wrong, but the evidence is that you are wrong everything you touch is a mess.

  2. This decision is as ignorant as it is ridiculous There is obviously a need for a detail at this condo complex. Having a detail officer there, keeping crimes from happening by being present, handling the calls for service that are generated at the complex and therefore keeping the understaffed road patrol officers from having to respond. But now, the understaffed road patrol will have to respond to those calls for service, and probably more calls now because of NO police presence. This means that people in other parts of the city will still not see additional police presence and still not have any faster response because you can bet that this decision will not increase the staffing on the road. This does nothing to enhance public safety. Quite the opposite. It deprives the residents of the condo complex of the added security they wanted and most likely needed. And it will further exacerbate the police presence and response issues throughout the city. Add to that, that it is punitive to the officers that may have relied on this detail for extra income.

    • The condo association can hire profession private security and they can specify armed security. The could contract with the sheriff’s office. The point is, why should wealthier condo owners be able to hire city police officers in Burlington police uniforms? It’s not right nor fair to poorer sections of the city who can’t hire city cops in uniform. The real issue is the city council bullies who act like children. If these condo owners want city protection go to a council meeting and speak up. If that doesn’t work sue the city. I bet those condo owners voted for the council as it is. Maybe now the can see the errors of their voting practices. The city police have a city to patrol not a condo association and they derive their police powers from the city charter.