Mayor Miro Weinberger Announces Actions to Forge New Consensus on Policing in Burlington; Appoints YMCA CEO Kyle Dodson to Lead this Work as Director of Police Transformation

September 25, 2020
Contact: Olivia LaVecchia
(802) 734-0617

Mayor Miro Weinberger Announces Actions to Forge New Consensus on Policing in Burlington; Appoints YMCA CEO Kyle Dodson to Lead this Work as Director of Police Transformation

Burlington, VT – Today, Mayor Miro Weinberger announced that he is appointing Kyle Dodson, the President and CEO of the Greater Burlington YMCA, to a new, temporary position titled Director of Police Transformation to help lead the City’s work to forge a new consensus on policing in Burlington. This work will include oversight of the Burlington Police Department’s planning, policy, and engagement efforts during a period in which the City is advancing a wide range of transformation efforts. Kyle will take a temporary leave of absence from his position at the YMCA to accept the position, which is anticipated to have a term of six months.

Mayor Weinberger also announced today a series of additional actions intended to help ensure that policing incidents like the ones that have caused community pain over the last two years become even more rare, and that when they do happen there is greater transparency and accountability around them.

“The events of this summer across our nation, from Minneapolis to Kenosha to Louisville to Burlington, have made unmistakably clear that as a country and a community we are at a moment of crisis in policing that has been building for a very long time,” said Mayor Weinberger. “In this critical moment, we have an opportunity and a necessity to finally root out systemic racism from all our institutions, including policing, and at long last to fully deliver to our Black and brown residents the fairness, safety, and solidarity that they are due. This is hard work that no American community has fully figured out. To get this right, I am expanding the City’s capacity and adding the perspective of a widely-respected, Black community leader from outside of law enforcement. We must move forward from the policing challenges of the past two years to build a new community consensus around policing. I am grateful and our community is fortunate that Kyle has agreed to lend us his considerable experience, skill, and vision to lead this work and help us make good on the promise of this moment.”

"In Vermont, we like to think about ourselves as a place apart,” said Kyle Dodson. “And there is something special about our physical environment and the character that it fosters. But we are also fully rooted in the American context. And America has a brutal history of institutionalized racism that continues today. It is pervasive. And therefore it is irresponsible, and it totally undermines any integrity we might want to claim, when we turn away from this reality. This move on the part of our Mayor is a definitive step in the direction of acknowledging the pain of BIPOC communities, and beginning the healing. I feel honored and humbled to be called upon to assist in this work."

"There are a lot of people pulling for change right now—the Mayor, the City Council, the Police Commission, protestors and advocates, myself and the men and women at the BPD,” said Chief of Police Jon Murad. “We’re still coalescing around what that change should be. How can we transform public safety while continuing to keep people safe? Because that’s the bottom line—keeping people safe. I’m eager for Director Dodson to help get all these stakeholders to pull in that same direction and pull together, and I'm excited about the transformation we can achieve."

New Role of Director of Police Transformation

As Director of Police Transformation, Kyle will bring deep leadership experience, strong community relationships, and his perspective as a BIPOC leader in Burlington to this work. He will report directly to the Mayor, and his role will focus on identifying areas for change, guiding the development of new policy, and including a broad range of community members and organizations in this work. A key part of his role will be managing, day-to-day, the multiple police transformation processes that the City already has committed to, which include:

  • An operational and functional assessment of the Police Department, as outlined in the City Council’s June 29, 2020 resolution;

  • An examination of public safety transformation, being led by a Joint Committee of the City Council’s Public Safety Committee and the Police Commission, as outlined in the City Council’s June 29, 2020 resolution;

  • A review of who makes and reviews police disciplinary decisions, being led by the City Council’s Charter Change Committee, as outlined in the City Council’s September 8, 2020 resolution; and

  • A review of police disciplinary measures, being led by the Police Commission, as outlined in the City Council’s September 8, 2020 resolution.

Even as the City undertakes this work to examine policing, it also is committed to identifying and addressing the root causes of systemic racism city-wide in multiple ways. These include the City’s new Director of Racial Equity, Inclusion & Belonging (REIB), Tyeastia Green, beginning a strategic planning process for REIB, and the City hiring a public health equity manager to coordinate work on the social determinants of health that make racism a public health emergency.

Kyle Dodson Brings Vision, Leadership, and New Capacity to City’s Work to Transform Public Safety

Kyle Dodson has served as President and CEO of the Greater Burlington YMCA since 2016. During that time, he has led the YMCA through pivotal changes, including constructing and relocating to its new location in the heart of Burlington, successfully completing the capital campaign for the new facility, and deepening its community service mission through changes like lower membership rates and expanded early childhood education. Kyle has served on the Board of the Burlington School District, as director of Champlain College’s Center for Service and Civic Engagement, and as a school principal in Massachusetts. He has lived in Burlington since 2008.

“Y communities all across the country are increasingly being called to provide service and leadership in new and unprecedented ways during these troubling times,” said Lisa Ventriss, President of Vermont Business Roundtable and Chair of the Board of the Greater Burlington YMCA. “The Greater Burlington YMCA family is proud that we are able to support the City of Burlington during its time of need. This will, indeed, be a sacrifice for the organization, but we are Y Strong and are confident that this is the right move by the City, and that Kyle Dodson is the right leader at the right time.”

Kyle will receive a salary of $75,000 for a six-month engagement, which is equivalent to his salary as President and CEO of the YMCA and will be funded from the Police Department and Mayor’s Office budgets.

Five Additional New Actions to Advance Transformation of Policing in Burlington

To complement all of this work, Mayor Weinberger today also announced five additional substantive actions. These actions respond directly to concerns raised by the Burlington residents protesting in Battery Park and other members of the Burlington community.

These additional actions are: issuing an executive order on disciplinary decisions; directing the City Attorney to review the City’s contract with the Burlington Police Officers Association and to make recommendations for areas of future change; requesting that the Police Commission approve a new body camera footage release policy by the end of October; creating a Community Service Liaison pilot program; and developing a new policy on the release of investigations into officer conduct. These actions are described in more detail in Attachment A.

Mayor Calls for Community to Include Police Officers as Partners in This Work

Also today, Mayor Weinberger called on the community to view the Police Department itself as a partner in this work to redefine public safety. “Long-term change in policing culture or practice is possible only with buy-in and support from Burlington police officers,” said Mayor Weinberger. “Further, when we talk about policing in Burlington, we are talking about dozens of officers who devote themselves to the very hard job of responding to violent situations, solving crimes, and keeping our community safe, even as their profession and the definition of safety are rapidly changing. We must find a way to support, value, and engage our sworn officers, and include them in the new consensus we are forging on what public safety means – and the work itself will be better and more enduring as a result.”

These announcements follow the approval earlier this week by the City Council of a separation agreement with Burlington Police Department Sergeant Jason Bellavance. Mayor Weinberger’s full statement about the agreement and the three officers whose actions have been at the center of recent protests in Battery Park, is available on the City website. The agreement seeks to bring some measure of resolution and finality to the controversies surrounding the actions of these three officers.

Today’s announcements are aimed at the future and designed both to accelerate the transformation processes already underway and advance additional changes that the community has called for around police governance, discipline, body camera footage policies, and accountability.

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