Burlington Police Chief Brandon del Pozo has resigned, days after admitting he created an anonymous Twitter account to harass a local political activist, Mayor Miro Weinberger said on Monday.
The mayor, who had defended the city's top cop last week, announced the news at a press conference at the Burlington Police Department's headquarters on North Avenue.
"I will miss him greatly, and I believe Burlington will as well," Weinberger told members of the media.
Deputy Police Chief Jan Wright will serve as acting chief, the mayor said: "I will have more to share about the appointment of a permanent chief in the days to come."
Del Pozo did not attend the event but tweeted out his resignation letter shortly after the press conference began.
"It was such an honor and a privilege to be our city's Chief of Police," he tweeted. "I'm looking forward to future opportunities to serve, and happy and healthy times with my family."
In the letter addressed to Weinberger, del Pozo described serving as chief as "the noblest thing I have ever done." As for his future, he wrote of plans to resume writing a book he'd been working on about American policing before Burlington hired him in 2015.
Brandon del Pozo on Friday
"My Ph.D. in political philosophy is also imminent, and one of my goals has been to help establish a research center for the study of policing and public health," del Pozo wrote. "These challenges and others lie before me, and I feel the best way to advance the state of American policing and find personal fulfillment will now be to pursue them."
The chief admitted to Seven Days last week that he'd created a Twitter account on July 4 and used it to troll activist Charles Winkleman. Del Pozo sent about 10 messages from the WinkleWatchers account before he deleted it. Winkleman took screenshots of the tweets and shared them with Seven Days later that month.
This reporter asked del Pozo about the account on July 23, and he denied his actions nearly a dozen times during the 36-minute interview. Del Pozo told reporters last week that he knew what he'd done was wrong, and he admitted it to Weinberger on July 28.
Weinberger put del Pozo on paid administrative leave and stripped him of his badge, gun and phone. But the mayor said he did not notify city councilors, police commissioners or the public in order to protect the chief’s privacy.
"I took actions that were informed by compassion,” Weinberger said, adding, “There certainly are situations where a notice to those other bodies would be appropriate. We do not feel at any point in this process that we had reached that point until recent days."
The city announced on August 2 that del Pozo was on a family and medical leave of absence. Officials and del Pozo refused to say why. The chief returned to duty in mid-September.
The mayor told Seven Days last week that del Pozo's actions were linked to an underlying medical condition. And the chief said stress from the job and his brain injury caused by a June 2018 bike crash impaired his judgment.
Seven Days released on Friday six and a half minutes of the July 23 call with this reporter, during which del Pozo repeatedly denied creating the WinkleWatchers account. Weinberger said he listened to the interview recording on Friday.
“I think it’s fair to say that he … understated the degree to which that conversation went,” the mayor said.
Weinberger said he only disclosed the chief’s actions because this reporter asked him about them directly. The mayor denied the notion that he lied by omission.
"It's been a very hard issue for me from the day it started, but I hope people will see that I acted with integrity and did the best I could through a challenging time,” he said.
City Councilor Max Tracy (P-Ward 2) isn’t among them. Tracy said Weinberger “engaged in a cover-up” by not informing councilors back in July, but Tracy stopped short of saying the mayor should resign.
“His actions here have really damaged public trust,” Tracy said.
Media members listen to Mayor Miro Weinberger, at podium
He noted that Weinberger campaigned on a promise to be more transparent than previous city administrations: “What this situation shows us is that he hasn’t,” Tracy said.
City Council President Kurt Wright (R-Ward 4) disagreed that the mayor “intentionally covered it up” but acknowledged that “the optics are not good, frankly, because it came from a reporter … rather than being brought up first.”
Wright anticipates that one of his fellow councilors will ask for the issue to be added to Monday’s city council meeting, which begins at 7 p.m. in Contois Auditorium.
Beforehand, at 6:15 p.m., the Peace & Justice Center has scheduled a "Demonstration to Dismantle Collusion within Burlington Leadership" rally outside of city hall to demand an investigation into the mayor's "lies and coverup."
"[Weinberger] lied by omission by failing to inform City Council, the Police Commission, and the broader community of del Pozo’s conduct," the group wrote in a press release. "Mayor Weinberger is ultimately responsible for del Pozo’s job performance and needs to answer as to whether he was aware of the Chief lying to the media last summer."
The Vermont Progressive Party, in a press release Monday morning, urged del Pozo to resign and also called for Weinberger “to be held accountable.”
At his press conference Monday, Weinberger blasted the party for issuing the release, saying he'd told the Progs on Sunday that del Pozo intended to resign.
"They still felt the need pile on this morning, call for his resignation," the mayor said. "I think that was particularly cruel, and I hope they'll consider withdrawing that and acknowledging that that was uncalled for."