Burlington mayor proposes $1.1 million cut to police department, fund racial equity

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Mayor Miro Weinberger wants to cut $1.1 million dollars from the Burlington Police Department, and put some of the money toward addressing racial equity within the city of Burlington.

The announcement came during a news briefing from Weinberger Monday, in which he detailed the fiscal year 2021 budget that he would be submitting to the City Council for approval. The budget proposal was expected to be debated during a City Council meeting Monday evening.

In light of the economic losses related to the COVID-19 pandemic, Weinberger began the briefing acknowledging that the city is projected to see a 16% revenue loss for the upcoming year, which would amount to $10 million.

Reallocating city police budget

Weinberger noted that the last three weeks since the killing of George Floyd had brought about public outcry both locally and nationally to address systematic changes to law enforcement agencies. 

“I share the sense of urgency that the protestors and hundreds of individuals who have called in to public meetings over the last week have shared,” Weinberger said. 

“This is a moment where we need to make long overdue progress on police transformation and racial progress.” 

A white police officer in Minneapolis, Derek Chauvin, pressed his knee into the neck of Floyd, who was African American, for more than eight minutes while Floyd indicated he could not breathe. Floyd’s death spurred international protests, calling out police brutality against Black people and creating a national demand in the U.S. to defund local police departments and reallocate funds toward community programs.

The mayor cautioned, however, on “moving too quickly” in regards to the demands to defund the city’s police department, making “changes that damage a really strong police.”

“If we don’t get this right, if we make errors in how we proceed here, we could undermine our goals by losing our good officers and making cuts that have unintended consequences,” Weinberger said.

Burlington calls to defund the police:A quick explainer on what that means

For more:Burlington Police Officers’ Association maintain downsizing department poses risks

Where the money would go

The proposed cuts to the police budget include:

  • Reducing the authorized number of police officers from 105 to 93.
  • Eliminating unfilled positions.
  • Moving parking enforcement to the Department of Public Works.
  • Reassigning of the department’s Crime Analyst to the city’s Innovation and Technology Department. 
  • Reallocating $800,000 toward reducing budget deficit.
  • Reallocating $300,000 toward a new Fund for Racial Equity and Police Transformation.

In total, those cuts would amount to a reduction of $1.9 million, or roughly 10% of the department’s overall budget, for the upcoming year.

Money for the Fund for Racial Equity and Police Transformation would go toward creating a second position in the city’s office of Racial Equity, Inclusion and Belonging, as well as a partnership with the Howard Center to expand “on street” social services to shift mental health calls toward social service professionals.

In addition, in consultation with the Burlington Police Commission, the city would hire a third-party to conduct an independent study evaluating the the proposed cuts for prior to the fiscal year 2022 budget. 

Among the other items included in the budget proposal was a deferment on new tax increases until next year, as well as a wage freezes for city employees with a salary above $100,000 year. In addition, Weinberger said that he would be taking a 10% pay cut.

“What I hope it does do is send a message that we’re not out of the woods,” Weinberger said. 

Contact Ethan Bakuli at (802) 556-1804 or ebakuli@freepressmedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @BakuliEthan.

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