Every reporter loves to get a scoop — a story with some impact that you’ve got all to yourself. It’s a badge of honor, to be sure. But more often than not, it doesn’t make much of a difference.
The latest comes from Seven Days‘ Courtney Lamdin, who hit the sweet spot by uncovering a lucrative side hustle negotiated by the Burlington Police Officers Association. It made a deal with a luxury condo development to provide security with off-duty city cops.
Her story may affect the outcome of the hottest issue on the Burlington ballot: A proposed police oversight board that would exclude members of the force from serving. That idea has prompted opposition from Mayor Miro Weinberger and Interim-For-Life Police Chief Jon Murad, among others.
Well, Lamdin’s article makes me think there’s a real need for police oversight, and it would be best done without any officers on the board.
There’s a big problem with the BPOA’s deal. They and police force leaders have been loudly complaining that the force is understaffed and stretched to its limits. But if that’s true, how do BPOA members have the stamina to work overnights patrolling the condo grounds? I thought they were all maxed out because of those damn Progressive reformers. I guess the fact that they’re paid a generous $81 an hour for Condo Patrol helps keep the sandman at bay.
Lamdin’s story raises other questions as well. She reports that off-duty cops do their condo work “in marked city cruisers, wearing their department-issued uniforms, badges and guns.”
Excuse me, whaaaaaat?
Is it just me who thinks that’s a really bad idea? Like, if it’s not illegal, maybe it should be. Police are acting as private security, but looking for all the world like they’re doing regular police work. That kinda puts the city in a very uncomfortable position, and it undermines officers’ credibility with the public.
And driving “in marked city cruisers”? How is that possible? Doesn’t the police department keep track of its vehicles and restrict their use to actual city business? If they don’t, many a taxpayer would say they should.
Lamdin points out issues with the timing of this side hustle.
The condo contract began in the fall, around the same time that city officials and downtown business owners were raising the alarm about rising crime, including fatal shootings. The climate was worrisome enough that the city hired off-duty Vermont State Police troopers to patrol the Church Street Marketplace late at night.
Yeah, Weinberger and Murad made a big deal about having to rely on state troopers because the police force couldn’t handle the job of protecting Church Street. But in those same early hours, members of the force were down on the riverfront serving the affluent.
Weinberger didn’t know about the BPOA arrangement until he was questioned by Lamdin for her story, which (a) is a thing reporters love and (b) makes it seem like he doesn’t have a handle on managing the force. It’s unclear when or whether Murad knew about it, because he didn’t return any of Lamdin’s calls. Brave man.
Residents of River Watch made the deal with the BPOA because they were unsatisfied with police response to their calls. Fortunately for them, they have the resources to hire their own supplemental police force — at the expense of the rest of the city.
Unfortunately for Weinberger and Murad and opponents of the proposed oversight board, this story shows that city police are far from solely devoted to serving their community. They’re also in it for the money. And this BPOA deal is a great example of why an oversight board is needed.
Thank you for putting everything I was just saying to someone into a post.
Good One, John. What a scan…sure wish I could clock $81/hr. Gotta love Burlington…
John Molnar Rutland
Not to mention the whole idea that they seem to be vested with all the authority they have as police when working for a private party, which is troubling enough, what gives with wearing uniforms (issued by the department), using their department-issue weapons, and driving the department’s vehicles? Are they paying the department for that?
Do employees of other departments get to do that? DPW drivers using city trucks to plow private driveways?