Police, Firefighter Unions Back Kenney for Chittenden State's Attorney | Politics | Seven Days | Vermont's Independent Voice

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Police, Firefighter Unions Back Kenney for Chittenden State's Attorney


Published July 18, 2022 at 6:51 p.m.
Updated July 26, 2022 at 10:23 p.m.

Ted Kenney, left, and Burlington firefighter Kyle Blake - DEREK BROUWER ©️ SEVEN DAYS
  • Derek Brouwer ©️ Seven Days
  • Ted Kenney, left, and Burlington firefighter Kyle Blake
Unions for local police officers and firefighters are throwing their support behind the challenger in a contested Democratic primary for top prosecutor in Chittenden County.

Ted Kenney, who is running against incumbent Sarah George for state's attorney, announced the endorsements from four police unions and four firefighter unions at a brief event on Monday in Burlington.

The unions issued a joint statement expressing frustration with the reform-minded George, who they suggested should be more aggressive in prosecuting people accused of repeat offenses.

"Ted has promised to listen and to advocate for public safety — two things that we feel are currently missing from the State's Attorney's office," their statement read.

The statement was signed by the police unions in Burlington, South Burlington, Winooski and Williston. Those groups were joined by firefighters from Burlington, South Burlington, Williston, and Colchester.

Members from several of the unions attended Kenney's endorsement announcement at a hotel conference room, but most remained seated and silent during the event. The Burlington Police Officers' Association has publicly criticized George in recent months, including a statement in June that described her approach to lower-level cases as creating a "prosecutorial void."

Kyle Blake, president of the Burlington Firefighters Association, cited a pair of recent violent encounters involving his members as motivating their endorsement. In one of the cases, a man allegedly shoved first responders as they arrived to render aid to someone in Burlington's City Hall Park, then climbed into the fire engine.

"It just keeps happening and happening. We're looking for some closure on those things," Blake said.

Kenney, a Williston lawyer, has highlighted the same incident on the campaign trail, noting that the man had accrued a number of other charges in recent months. He criticized George's office for not asking a judge to impose stricter conditions of release, such as a curfew, sooner.

George on Monday said that state law generally bars judges from detaining people who are accused of most nonviolent crimes. Kenney's stated approach, she said, is unlikely to stop the conduct that is frustrating firefighters.

"People with significant mental health and substance use issues are not going to be deterred by further conditions of release," she continued. "They are going to be deterred with services and resources."

"I really think my opponent is promising things he can't make good on," George added.

George, appointed to the post by Gov. Phil Scott in 2017 after working in the state's attorney's office since 2011, is facing her first contested election.  She has not sought police union endorsements.

"I think there's an inherent conflict in being endorsed by unions when a big part of my job is not just holding police accountable, but having an unbiased relationship with them," she said.

In announcing the endorsements, Kenney said he had not promised to be the unions' ally if elected.

"These women and men made no demands and sought no promises from me," he said, "other than I make good faith efforts to collaborate with them, and to hear them out."