Police Department

Burlington Police Department - Frequently Asked Questions

Here are some answers to the most common questions we receive about the Burlington Police Department and its operations.

 

  • Are BPD officers required to wear body-worn cameras? If so, are these cameras required to be turned on when our officers respond to police calls?

Yes. All officers are required to wear body-worn cameras and follow the procedures of the Department’s Directive relating to the wearing of body-worn camera systems. (Department Directive 14.1 - Body Worn Camera Systems) The policy, DD14.1, states, “All Officers, to include assisting Officers, will activate their BWC during any police incident where citizen contact is made or anticipated.” Some examples of those incidents are crimes in progress, traffic stops, detentions, arrests, transports, or any type of search or seizure.

 

  • Does the BPD employ evidence-based police de-escalation training?

We do. Our current de-escalation model was developed by the Police Executive Research Forum (PERF) and is called ICAT, or Integrating Communications, Assessment and Tactics. The BPD was one of the pilot agencies that partnered with PERF to roll out the training model back in 2016, which is now used and followed by over 80 agencies across the country. We now have multiple officers within the BPD who are ICAT Instructors and they provide annual training throughout the Department. (Here is a link to the story from 2016 when we first partnered with PERF and began training our officers. See: https://www.burlingtonfreepress.com/story/news/local/2016/09/15/burlington-police-training-deescalation/90357496/)

 

  • Does the BPD employ racial bias training? What exactly does that training entail?

 

Yes. Over the past 15 years the Burlington Police Department has conducted dozens of bias, cultural compentency, and fair and impartial based trainings.  Many of these are trainings unique to the BPD, but training is also mandated by the Vermont Criminal Justice Training Council and Vermont Legislature relating to Fair and Impartial Policing and varies from year to year so it can evolve with current trends as well as provide meaningful recurring training. Officers have daily meetings with leadership and often discuss recent interactions to ensure consistent conduct. In 2021 the BPD conducted a series of iterative trainings on racial bias with Treste Loving of the Insitute For Racial Equity, in which officers trained on their shifts with their co-workers to have productive conversations on this complex topic.  In recent years we have also had training by Dr. Bryant Marks on Implicit Bias, and similar training by CQ Strategies, as well as recurring training on Fair and Impartial Policing Policies. We also sent a group of officers to Montgomery, Alabama, to visit the Legacy Museum and the National Memorial for Peace and Justice. The goal of this trip was to gain perspective into the black experience in America, as well as to understand law enforcement’s role in that experience. It was a journey undertaken in an effort to be and do better for our community.

 

  • What happens when officers use force during encounters with members of the public?

Since March of 2021, we have shared a description of every use of force with the independant Burlington Police Commission and the public. Police officers are authorized by law to use objectively reasonable force in the completion of their duties. Context is important here. For the BPD, a use of force means any act beyond noncompliant handcuffing, from a grab to a discharge of a firearm. Use of force occurs in two-thirds of one percent of all incidents—i.e., in 0.66% of incidents. Officers are required to intervene if they witness excessive force by another officer. All uses of force must be reported and each use of force is reviewed by specially trained personnel and supervisors. If an incident appears to be outside our training or our guidelines, or if a significant injury occurs, it will be investigated further. That may include referring the incident to our State’s Attorney or the Vermont Attorney General for review; if warranted, those offices can charge an officer criminally. If an investigation determines that a use of force was not criminal but did violate the BPD’s directives, an officer may be disciplined in accordance with their union contract. Depending on the nature of the violation, discipline may range from remedial training to termination. Our “Use of Force” directive, DD05, can be found here: Department Directive 05 - Use of Force.

 

  • Does the BPD use chokeholds?

No. BPD officers are trained to recognize and defeat neck restraints in the Vermont Police Academy’s ground-fighting course, but the BPD’s Use-of-Force directive states “Any neck restraint technique should be used only under circumstances that warrant the use of lethal force.”

 

  • Are there any other preventative measures the BPD takes to ensure the FAIR treatment of ALL of Burlington’s citizens?

Yes, there are a number of preventative measures. These include:

  • The BPD is overseen by the Burlington Police Commission.  The Commission is made up of seven member from within Burlington, appointed by the City Council with the Mayor presiding.  Members have no ties to the Department, but work together with BPD Command members not only to ensure the BPD is abiding by Department Directives and City Rules & Regulations, but also to ensure it is following the principles of fair and impartial policing within the city.  The Commission provides input to and reviews complaints against any agency member and plays a vital role in reviewing citizen complaints.  
  • Citizens can file complaints anonymously, and these complaints are reviewed by the Chief of Police and the citizen Police Commission.  All citizen complaints, even anonymous complaints, are reviewed and thoroughly investigated. 
  • There are many Department Directives that address officer conduct and how we treat those we serve.
  • In addition to those directives, the BPD places high emphasis on connecting with the community and working with community partners to educate and train our officers. 

 

The Burlington Police Department’s Department Directives are available for your review. 

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