By Guy Page
The Burlington Police Department has only 22 patrol officers – total – to provide 24/7/365 coverage in a city with a growing crime rate, a recent BPD report shows.
“As of Jan 01, 2023, the BPD has 63 total sworn officers,of whom 54 are available to be deployed,” the report said. “Historically, headcount has been in the high 90s; currently we are authorized for 87 officers. Minus 9 on leave, injury, FTO, etc. = 54. Minus 14 supervisors = 40. Minus 10 detectives = 31. Minus 5 airport officers = 25. Minus 3 special assignments = 22.”
Mayor Miro Weinberger and Chief Jon Murad presented a rebuilding plan as part of the FY23 budget, which the City Council unanimously approved. The Council also approved strong contracts and raised authorized officer headcount from 74 to 87.
The good news is that “BPD is working hard to grow,” the report said.
For example, on December 16, three new BPD officers graduated from the Vermont Police Academy and started their fifteen-week field training. Five more officers are anticipated to be hired to attend the next Academy class, which begins in February. The BPD is also hiring Community Service Officers, Community Support Liaisons, Dispatchers, and more.
Starting pay for a police officer is $71,000, with a $15,000 hiring bonus and other bonuses and benefits.
Community Service Officers (CSOs) are unarmed, unsworn officers who answer quality-of-life calls for service. Historically, the BPD had two; Chief Murad’s plan expanded the number. There are 10 at present, and the FY23 budget allocates for 12. The role is also a stepping stone to becoming a police officer.
Community Support Liaisons (CSLs) are embedded social workers with expertise in mental health, substance use disorder, and houselessness who help address social service issues. There are three CSLs in the hiring pipeline, and BPD hopes to add six by early 2023.
The bad news is that many types of crime are up.
In 2022 Burlington saw five murders, more than any known year in the city’s history, the BPD report said. In the eleven years since the city’s current reporting system began, Burlington has experienced fifteen murders.
Gunfire, larceny, overdose, mental health, and stolen vehicle incidents in 2022 all were the highest in the last five years – and by considerable margins. Only traffic stops were significantly lower than in previous years.