Vermont State Police to patrol in Burlington under new agreement
Vermont State Police officers can now sign up for optional patrols in Burlington after a formal request by the city, officials said this week.
State troopers can take shifts during evening hours from Wednesday through Saturday, according to state police spokesperson Adam Silverman. They will not be responding to 911 calls unless called for backup. He said the elective overtime comes after a request from the city and is expected to last for 30 days.
“Our directive is to conduct high-visibility patrols only,” Silverman said.
Mayor Miro Weinberger’s office said the patrols would begin as soon as this week and confirmed that the city will pay the expense out of the police budget. The troopers will be paid at their overtime rate plus travel expenses, according to Silverman.
“Despite all the steps that we have taken to expand our public safety resources in the downtown since the spring, it is clear that we need to do even more until the current climate improves,” Weinberger said in a statement.
Burlington officials previously requested a state police presence after a Main Street shooting early in the morning on Aug. 13. A state police press release said the agency agreed to provide 10 troopers to patrol on the night after the shooting.
Weinberger said he directed Jon Murad, Burlington’s acting police chief, to look at a variety of ways to improve public safety in the wake of 25 gunfire incidents this year which includes four homicides. The use of state troopers is to provide “a more robust public safety presence,” he said.
“We will continue to relentlessly deploy new resources, seek new partnership, and pursue new strategies until we restore the level of public safety and low rate of violent crime that Burlingtonians have long known and enjoyed,” Weinberger said.
Murad said in an email that after the 30-day period, the request will be reevaluated. He said the troopers primarily will be on foot in a designated area that covers the Church Street Marketplace and City Hall Park. Murad agreed with Silverman’s description of “high-visibility” patrols but also noted that troopers will be tasked with “violence prevention” as well.
The shifts are broken up into four-hour blocks for which up to four troopers can sign up at a time. The shifts cover Wednesday through Saturday evenings until early morning hours — as late as 3 a.m. over the weekends.
City Councilor Joan Shannon, D-South District, said she was thankful to state police for stepping in to help bolster the local law enforcement presence given staffing concerns at Burlington Police Department.
“It's certainly unfortunate that we're in this position. Our own local police are in a better position to police our community,” Shannon said.
In Murad’s report to the Burlington Police Commission from late September, he stated that the police department currently has 62 officers while it is authorized for 87. Only 20 of the 62 officers are assigned to patrol, Murad said in the report.
The presence of the state police comes at a time when Burlington police also are working closely with federal agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives in the Chittenden County Gun Violence Task Force.
Stephanie Seguino, co-chair of the Burlington Police Commission, said the commission hasn’t been informed or been able to provide input on the role of outside agencies.
“We have not yet been given details of those decisions around policing that involves the state police or the new task force and are therefore unable to comment because that information hasn't been shared with the commission,” Seguino said in an interview.
Silverman said state police received a formal request for patrols from the city and outlined some details. The overtime is eligible to any trooper statewide at the rank of lieutenant or below. The agreement makes no guarantee that a certain level of staffing will be provided, and troopers can leave the Burlington patrol for any state team activation.
Silverman said similar arrangements are in place in Shelburne and Springfield, where troopers have been asked to provide patrols in addition to those municipalities’ police departments.
Silverman also dismissed concerns about possible strains to the state police’s staffing levels, saying the Burlington overtime opportunities will remain voluntary.