Mayor Weinberger and Community Leaders Oppose Proposed Control Board on Town Meeting Day Ballot

Burlington, Vt. – Today, Mayor Miro Weinberger and local leaders from healthcare and service organizations, labor unions, and the local business community gathered to speak to their concerns and share opposition to the proposed charter change on the Burlington Town Meeting Day Ballot. If passed, this would create a new independent department of the City for police oversight called the “community control board”.  

“Burlingtonians rightly expect our police officers to be held to high standards. We have done much in recent years to ensure this, and I, Chief Murad, the City Council, and the Police Commission have all committed to more of this hard and important work. However, the proposed Community Control Board – like the Council action in 2020 to reduce the size of the Police Department by 30% – is a deeply flawed experiment with Burlington’s public safety that should seriously concern voters,” said Mayor Miro Weinberger. “The extensive, proposed charter change has little to no precedent in this country, it lacks basic protections to ensure the fairness that we must offer our officers to succeed at rebuilding the Department, and it will be needlessly and wastefully expensive, draining limited resources from other social reform and public safety priorities.” 

The proposal is a binding measure on the Town Meeting Day ballot that asks voters if the City should amend its Charter to create a new community control board for police oversight that would be an “independent department” of the City. The Control Board would be empowered to hire staff, investigate any incident, choose its jurisdiction, and discipline Burlington Police Department (BPD) staff without input from the Chief or any opportunity for appeal. Control board members cannot include anyone with experience in law enforcement, and would be appointed by a citizen appointment committee. There is no process to remove board members, and there is currently no budget before voters to assess the cost. 

Community Leaders Oppose Proposed Charter Change 

Damion Gilbert, AFSCME Local 1343 President: “This charter change language creates no standards or requirements for the Board to grant officers due process, and gives officers no appeal rights within the City system, officers are only allowed to appeal to the Vermont Superior Court. The charter change explicitly removes the right of officers and their union to a grievance process. No public employee should have to work under that condition.” 

Kyle Blake, BFFA Local 3044 President: “On behalf of the Burlington Fire Fighters Association, I want to express our concern and frustration with the language found in the proposed charter change that removes an employee’s right to due process, fair and impartial discipline, and a proper appeal process. Labor and friends of labor understand that if this language is approved and adopted, it will be a considerable setback to the decades of hard work by unions and labor leaders to ensure employees are treated fairly and are entitled to due process regarding discipline. Furthermore, this language will establish what could be used as a precedent in the future for anyone in the workforce regarding discipline. Therefore, regardless of what side a voter is on when it comes to criminal justice reform and policing, I would urge them to reject this ballot item as proposed.” 

Catherine Davis, President of the Lake Champlain Chamber: “Our business community has proved itself more resilient the last few years than we could have imagined, but we need help to ensure that Burlington remains safe for all who live, work and visit here. Please vote no on Question 7.” 

Dr. Stephen Leffler, President and Chief Operating Officer at University of Vermont Medical Center: “While we support accountability and transparency, the proposed charter change causes us grave concern for the safety of our staff.  We cannot support a charter change that would have the potential of further diminishing the BPD’s ability to respond to violence in our Emergency Department.  I fear this measure would further put our staff at risk.” 

Matthew MacNeil, the Director of Evaluation and Outcomes at the Howard Center: “Howard Center has an explicit appreciation that the decision on the charter change is now up to the voters and that they should be encouraged to be informed and educate themselves on both sides of the issue. After a thorough consideration of the information as it’s presented by each side, we do not believe that adopting the proposed charter change would be in the best interests of the city and the people who live, work, and visit here.” 

Kelly Devine, Executive Director of the Burlington Business Association: “The city’s ability to deliver public safety is a concern to everyone, residents and businesses alike. Staff at our restaurants and stores are being harassed, threatened, and assaulted on a weekly basis. This ballot question as written puts our city’s public safety services at great risk by attempting an unprecedented experiment.” 

Bill Keogh, former Burlington City Council President: “Safety in our city is at risk.” 

Ben Traverse, Ward 5 City Councilor: Because this ballot question came by petition, State law prohibits the City Council from engaging in the careful, deliberative process our community expects on charter changes. We are precluded from making amendments responsive to the legitimate concerns we’ve heard about the breadth of the proposed Control Board. We owe it to our community to have a more robust discussion on police oversight and accountability. To that end, I’ll be introducing a resolution asking the public to reject the ballot initiative, allowing the City Council an opportunity for more public input and engagement. 

Other community leaders opposing the proposed control board include: Former City Councilors Jane Knodell, Kurt Wright, Ed Adrian, ANEW Place Executive Director Joe Domko, Becky Cassidy and Bruce Miller of the Queen City Police Foundation, Owner of Church Street business Homeport Mark Bouchett, and community organizer Sandy Baird.  

Summary of Proposed Charter Change to Create a Police Control Board, Ballot Question #7  

  • It creates an entirely unique and unparalleled police oversight system 
    No other city has been identified where a board is empowered with both investigatory powers and disciplinary authority over officers, nor is there an example of another city in which the Police Chief does not have a leadership role in the adjudication of discipline.   

  • It lacks basic protections to ensure the fairness and due process that all City employees deserve, and will undermine our efforts to rebuild the Burlington Police Department 
    There are no standards or requirements for the Board to grant officers due process, and the proposal eliminates appeal rights within the City system (officers are allowed appeal to the Vermont Superior Court). The charter change explicitly removes the right of officers and their union to a grievance process.  

  • It is unlike any of Burlington’s existing citizen commissions or boards 
    This proposed charter change does not require control board members to have any expertise in training, law enforcement, the law, human resources or other comparable disciplinary experience. Anyone ever employed by any law enforcement agency is prohibited from serving on the board. The Mayor and the City Council have no direct role in appointing board members, and there are no provisions for removing board members for cause, and no requirement that members reside in Burlington.  

  • It creates a new independent department of the City 
    The proposed control board could hire employees, consultants, and legal representation, and establish and maintain an investigatory office. It is unclear what, if any, limitations the Mayor and City Council can put on this spending and no current cost projection exists for the voters to consider. 

  • Question #7 is binding 
    If approved by voters, the charter change language cannot be amended, reviewed, or approved by the Mayor, City Attorney, or City Council. Upon passage, this charter change would advance to the Vermont Legislature and the Governor for approval. 

How Police Accountability in Burlington Works Now  

The City of Burlington has been long committed to advancing responsible reforms to strengthen oversight of the Burlington Police Department, ensure police accountability, and improve transparency in the policies, actions, and outcomes of local law enforcement. Since 2016, significant actions have been taken to overhaul our use of force policy, strengthen police oversight including new internal and public processes to review use of force incidents, making all use of force incidents, including video, public, making all police data public, and expand the oversight powers of the Burlington Police Commission which reviews all citizen complaints and use of force incidents. 

  • A citizen Police Commission reviews all complaints and police uses of force 
    The Police Commission is also responsible for reviewing and making recommendations on all Police Department policies and issues its own independent annual report.   

  • Mayor reviews all use of force incidents that result in injury or raises significant public concern 
    The Police Chief must seek the Mayor’s concurrence with his discipline decision before it is rendered.  

  • All BPD officers wear body cameras and body camera footage of incidents of public interest is released quickly 
    Under a recent policy, BPD proactively publicly releases body-worn camera footage within 30 days of an incident whenever the use of force involves bodily injury or death, the use of a firearm, the use of discretionary non-lethal force (such as deploying aerosol sprays or batons), or any incident determined to be of public interest by the Mayor, the Chief, or a majority of the Police Commission, unless a criminal inquiry would prevent release.  

  • BPD has long been a state leader in collecting and publishing police data 
    BPD releases a comprehensive annual report that includes data and information about police interactions and uses of force so that citizens may review Police Department trends. This report includes data disaggregated by race.  

The Mayor’s complete memo regarding the proposed control board is available here.  


Press Release Date: 
City Department: 
Mayor's Office