Won’t say whether she would have voted for defunding of police
By Michael Bielawski
Burlington mayoral candidate Rep. Emma Mulvaney-Stanak (P-Burlington) who is now running for mayor of Burlington last week told the audience of the WVMT Morning Drive radio show she would not commit, if elected, to keeping current police chief Jon Murad on board.
Chief Murad has only recently been formally confirmed as chief by the City Council, but had been acting chief for more than three years. Morning Drive co-host former state legislator and city councilor Kurt Wright noted that the community considers Murad’s retention a high priority.
“I’ve talked to many of the police officers in Burlington and I know many felt very relieved that he was finally the permanent chief, they felt like there was finally some needed stability in the department but now we’re all wondering if there’s a new mayor, what will the new mayor do?” Wright said.
Mulvaney-Stanak responded, “I get this question a lot, no surprise right, with what the city is facing. As I’ve said before I’m expecting every city department leader to be one that wants to rebuild trust with our residents, we want people to know that the city is going to respond and I’m going to have a high expectation of how department heads behave.”
She mentioned the state has investigated Chief Murad for his behavior concerning an incident with a surgeon at a hospital. The chief was not formally charged with any misconduct but the incident prompted an apology to the surgeon by Murad.
The chief allegedly threatened to arrest a surgeon during a shouting match that occurred when Murad would not leave the room while he was trying to obtain information to catch a suspected shooter. Further details on the context of the argument are not available to the public.
Mulvaney-Stanak stated, “We should be having high expectations for our leaders to set the tone for all police officers who are serving under them,” she said. “I want folks who are collaborative and not going to add to the divisiveness that has sent our city in a completely wrong direction.”
Two callers specifically cited the issue of whether she will ensure that Chief Murad will continue as chief.
“I would just like to say that any candidate that will not commit to the police chief and extending his office does not have my vote and nor a lot of other people’s votes,” one caller said.
She responded, “I’m going to have conversations with all department heads if I’m elected and it’s a two-way street.”
Wright then asked, “If the public continues to want to know [if she’ll keep Murad as chief], I think it’s an issue that people are really concerned about, would that cause you in any way to feel like ‘Hey I need to figure this out before the election is over and make my position real clear?”
She said, “So I’m two weeks into this race, I’m talking to as many people as possible and I am open to hearing what people have to say.”
She added that she’s been in conversation with people working in public safety.
“And I really want to emphasize that it’s not one person who is the secret answer to how we are going to solve everything in community safety, it’s much more complex than that,” she said.
Wright noted, “The men and women of the department have been I think more supportive of this chief than any chief I’ve known before, whether it was [Brandon del Pozo] or whether it was Mike Schirling, there seems to be more support in the ranks than there has been for other chiefs.”
Mulvaney-Stanak said she will continue to listen to advice on this issue.
Won’t say if she would have defunded police
Later in the show, Wright asked Mulvaney-Stanak if she would have joined with her Progressive colleagues on the City Council to reduce the city’s police force by about 30 percent as they did in June of 2022. Ultimately the vote was to reduce the force via attrition, but it occurred faster than most anticipated.
“They were warned that it would come much faster than they were even guessing and it did,” Wright said. “Do you think that was a wise decision? Every Progressive voted for that and I think so many residents have now seen the results of that. They’ve seen increased crime, they’ve seen a palpable difference in the City of Burlington than we’ve ever seen before.”
She answered, “I totally agree we have to learn from past decisions, we have to be responsive to how things evolve and when we learn more and when we look at how other things have unfolded on a statewide level in terms of our contributing to our community safety needs.”
She would not offer a direct answer to whether she would have voted for the defunding of police.
The whole interview can be listened to here.
The author is a reporter for the Vermont Daily Chronicle