Weinberger Tries Again to Install Murad as Permanent Burlington Police Chief | News | Seven Days | Vermont's Independent Voice

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Weinberger Tries Again to Install Murad as Permanent Burlington Police Chief


Published May 25, 2023 at 4:57 p.m.
Updated December 8, 2022 at 1:25 p.m.

Acting Police Chief Jon Murad (left) and Mayor Miro Weinberger - COURTNEY LAMDIN ©️ SEVEN DAYS
  • Courtney Lamdin ©️ Seven Days
  • Acting Police Chief Jon Murad (left) and Mayor Miro Weinberger
If at first you don't succeed, try, try again.

Burlington Mayor Miro Weinberger is taking that proverb to heart as he tries for a second time to install acting Police Chief Jon Murad as the city’s top cop. The mayor has asked the Burlington City Council to confirm Murad for the role at its June 5 meeting.

Weinberger’s first attempt, in January 2022, failed when council Progressives blocked the appointment with a 6-6 tie vote. More than a year later, Weinberger is confident he has the seven votes needed to give his acting chief the permanent title.

“I believe he's going to be confirmed, and we're going to move forward as a community,” Weinberger said at a Thursday afternoon press conference at City Hall.

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couldn’t independently verify the mayor’s contention, however. Five councilors have told Seven Days they'll vote for Murad, including Joan Shannon (D-South District) and Mark Barlow (I-North District), who were among a cadre of supporters at Thursday’s press conference.

Two other Dems — Council President Karen Paul (D-Ward 6) and Councilor Ben Traverse (D-Ward 5) — didn’t respond to interview requests. The council’s four Progressives will all vote no, and Councilor Ali Dieng (I-Ward 7) previously said he'd vote no.
A successful appointment would be a major victory for Weinberger, a Democrat, who has clashed with Progressives over public safety since a June 2020 vote to reduce police staffing through attrition. Weinberger has subsequently pressured councilors to hire more cops — and helped defeat efforts to create more civilian oversight of police. But winning support for Murad has so far eluded the mayor.

Elections in March, however, seemingly shifted the council balance in Murad’s favor. Democrats picked up two seats previously held by Progs, and Barlow announced an alliance with the Dems to give the party a functional majority of seven seats.

“We just had a very decisive Town Meeting Day where the public made clear they expect us to forge progress on public safety,” Weinberger said on Thursday. “That’s what Chief Murad has been doing in the acting role. I’m confident the council’s going to see that, too.”
The city hasn’t had a permanent police chief since December 2019, when Brandon del Pozo resigned amid a social media scandal. Murad was named acting chief in June 2020, just before the council’s police staffing vote.

Officers were initially skeptical of Murad, who, like del Pozo, is a Harvard University graduate and alumnus of the New York Police Department. But Murad eventually won them over by showing up to late-night shooting scenes, taking shifts on holidays and relentlessly pushing to hire more cops.

Supporters have listed these accomplishments as reasons to give Murad the job. But critics, including members of the police commission, have questioned Murad’s commitment to reform. Like Weinberger, Murad has resisted efforts to bolster civilian oversight of police. He also maintains that there's no evidence of racial bias in the department, despite data showing disparities in how police use force against Black residents compared to white people.
Murad has also been criticized for his own actions. Last year, he allowed off-duty officers to provide private security at a condo complex, unbeknownst to the mayor. And last summer, he threatened to arrest a trauma surgeon who was treating a gunshot wound victim, according to a complaint filed by the doctor. The police commission has asked the Vermont Criminal Justice Council, the state body that investigates misconduct, to look into the doctor’s complaint.

Councilor Joe Magee (P-Ward 3), who attended the press conference, said those incidents had already convinced him that Murad isn’t fit to lead.

“All of these things point to a real lack of open and transparent leadership from the department,” Magee said.
In the end, it may not matter how the council votes. Weinberger kept Murad on as acting chief when the council rejected him last year and can be expected to do the same should history repeat itself.

Murad has said in previous interviews that he doesn’t dwell on the “permanent chief” title because the department and the community know he’s committed to the job. He reiterated that message on Thursday.

“I'm grateful now for the chance to formalize that status,” he said. “But I would keep doing this work regardless, as I have for 1,077 days. But who's counting?”