Murad Reappointed as Burlington Police Chief, but Some Progs Dissent | News | Seven Days | Vermont's Independent Voice


Murad Reappointed as Burlington Police Chief, but Some Progs Dissent


Published June 3, 2024 at 11:29 p.m.

Burlington Police Chief Jon Murad - COURTNEY LAMDIN ©️ SEVEN DAYS
  • Courtney Lamdin ©️ Seven Days
  • Burlington Police Chief Jon Murad
Progressive city councilors tried unsuccessfully on Monday night to block Burlington Police Chief Jon Murad from serving another yearlong term.

After a brief debate, the chief was reappointed on an 8-3 vote that largely fell on party lines. Councilor Gene Bergman (P-Ward 2) was absent.

Only Murad's reappointment sparked debate. Councilors unanimously reappointed about a dozen other department heads to terms that begin July 1.

Murad has long been a divisive figure in city politics. In 2022, a Progressive council plurality blocked his promotion from acting to permanent chief, though former mayor Miro Weinberger, a Democrat, allowed Murad to stay on as acting chief. Dems elevated him to permanent chief when they took control of the council the following year.
Mayor Emma Mulvaney-Stanak’s election in March cast more uncertainty on Murad’s fate. During the campaign, the Progressive candidate had expressed concern about whether he could be a team player. Last week, however, Mulvaney-Stanak said Murad would be staying on.

“Continuity of leadership is important, and I will establish clear goals and expectations with all Department Heads over the course of the next year related to our priorities as a City,” the mayor said in a statement. “I will be working closely with Chief Murad to improve the Police Departments [sic] relationships with vital community partners to move in a more collaborative direction.”

Progressive councilors shared their concerns nonetheless. Councilor Melo Grant (P-Central District), a longtime critic of Murad’s, said the chief isn’t committed to eliminating racial disparities in policing. She said Murad is disrespectful and adversarial, pointing to her own interactions with the chief and an incident in 2022 when Murad allegedly threatened to arrest an emergency room doctor who was treating a gunshot wound victim.

“We have seen disqualifying behavior,” Grant said.
Councilor Joe Kane (P-Ward 3) provided his own example, saying Murad forcibly removed activists from last year's Christmas tree lighting because they were holding a vigil for Palestinians at the event. The incident was reported in the leftist publication the Rake Vermont at the time.

Kane, who was at the vigil, said people were demonstrating silently with signs and flags.

“If this group of people is viewed as too threatening to collaborate with, how can we expect the chief to collaborate with anyone who ever disagrees with him about anything?” Kane said.

Council Democrats, meantime, praised Murad for leading the department through the infamous 2020 vote to reduce the size of the force through attrition and the subsequent officer exodus. Several noted that the rank and file support the chief, which they said is vital in recruiting more officers.

“He is the glue that’s holding this department together,” Councilor Joan Shannon (D-South District) said.
Councilor Mark Barlow (I-North District), who aligns with the Democrats, blamed his council colleagues for the department’s recruitment and retention challenges.

“It's these kinds of conversations that chill any prospective new employee of BPD from wanting to come to work for us," he said of Monday's debate.

Councilors Grant, Kane and Marek Broderick (P-Ward 8) voted no. Councilor Carter Neubieser (P-Ward 1) broke with his caucus to support Murad’s nomination, saying that despite his misgivings, he thinks Murad should have an opportunity under a new mayoral administration to prove himself.

Also on Monday, councilors approved a 5.5 percent rate increase for Burlington Electric Department customers.

Burlington Electric general manager Darren Springer said the utility needs to bring in more revenue to make up for higher labor costs and the growing expense of transmitting electricity over the regional grid, among other budget pressures. Nationally, the cost of electricity is rising at rates higher than inflation levels, Springer said.
The department’s 7.5 percent rate hike in 2021 was the first in 12 years. Since then, Burlington Electric has steadily increased rates each year, most recently 5.5 percent in the current fiscal year.

With this year's increase, the average residential customer will pay an additional $4.51 per month, depending on their usage. Even so, Springer said, Burlington Electric's total rate will be lower than other Vermont utilities.

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