In recent days, we’ve seen defensive protestations from two separate former Burlington police chiefs. The above comes from former chief and now rebranded 21st Century policing expert Brandon del Pozo. The second is in the resignation announcement of Jennifer Morrison, who tied her departure to the too-tough oversight by the busybodies on City Council.
In some ways I can sympathize. Burlington is a tough city for policing, never more so than right now. Progressives on City Council and community advocates often go over the top in their demands and their tactics. And as del Pozo noted in another tweet, many of the top cops who’ve resigned or been forced out across the country are among the more progressive members of that breed. To be sure, life is easier for the George Merkels and Paul Doucettes of the world, who rule the roost in communities that let the cops have their way.
For purposes of this blogpost, I am not questioning the good intentions of del Pozo or Morrison. But here’s the problem: Much like the Roman Catholic Church, the policing profession has forfeited the benefit of the doubt. There are far too many bad apples — and you know the real truth about bad apples is that unless they are removed, they spoil the barrel. In both professions, the bad apples have been allowed to remain.
The vast majority of Catholic priests and, for the sake of argument, top Church administrators operate faithfully, with good intentions. But the bad apples were protected, and the Church continues to pay a price. Who can take the Church seriously as a moral arbiter?
Winning back the lost trust will take several decades of good behavior and strict adherence to moral principles and the law. The same is now true of the policing profession — except they are still racking up fresh deficits.
Brandon del Pozo has bowed to the inevitable, and resigned as Burlington’s police chief. His departure came a mere four days after he admitted to Seven Days’ Courtney Lamdin that he had used an anonymous Twitter account to troll frequent City Hall critic Charles Winkleman.
Still, a whole bunch of questions remain unanswered. But they can all be boiled down to a single multidimensional query:
Why did it take so long?
The original deed — creating a fake Twitter handle to bash a critic, and deleting it almost immediately — would have been a bad look. But a fireable offense? That’s questionable. I think del Pozo would have survived.
Instead, here’s what happened. Del Pozo posted the tweets on July 4. Winkleman took notice, and vented his suspicions to Lamdin. She approached del Pozo on July 23, and he repeatedly denied any involvement. He lied “nearly a dozen times,” as Lamdin reported.
Five days later, del Pozo came clean to Weinberger. The mayor put the chief on medical leave and took away his gun, badge and city-issued cellphone. And told him to stay off social media. (The leave was publicly announced on August 2.)
Del Pozo returned to the job on September 15. And still, nothing about the twitter account and the lies to Seven Days’ city hall reporter. Weinberger kept it under his hat, thinking maybe, I don’t know, it’ll all just go away?
In a time when America is averaging more than one mass shooting per day*, the good people of Burlington just suffered through several weeks of a homeless man riding his bike around town with a rifle strapped to his back.
*FBI definition: four or more people shot in a single incident, not including the shooter. We’ve had 29 in July so far.
Per Seven Days’ Mark Davis, police “found [Malcolm Tanner] to be ‘incoherent,’ and he insisted that laws do not apply to him.” But they did nothing about him because “he did not seem to be breaking any laws.”
The Burlington Free Press’ descent into whoredom continues apace. Today’s front page encapsulates every worrying trend in the devolution of a once-adequate newspaper — sorry, “media property.”
The front page, for those not close enough to a library or convenience store to give it an eyeball, features Don Sinex, owner of the Burlington Town Center Mall. Sinex is seeking city approval for a complete makeover of the mall, including two 14-story towers that would be the tallest human-made buildings in the city. Sinex is certainly newsworthy; it’s the layout, and all the surrounding circumstances, that illustrate the shortcomings of the Queen City’s Newsroom Of The Future.
For starters, there’s the fact that the Free Press has been giving this story constant, breathless coverage for quite a while now — interrupted only by its ardent pursuit of Trump-related clickbait. I understand that this is a major story regarding the development of downtown Burlington, and I don’t mind quantity coverage with some balance to it. This, however, is giving over the paper’s most valuable real estate to Sinex.
And if you don’t think this was a pro-Sinex puff piece, just look at the headline:
Last Best Plan for Burlington Mall
If that isn’t an editorial, I don’t know what is. The paper could have said “Developer Touts Last Best Plan” or something like that, but no. This Is “The Last Best Plan.”
The marketplace has spoken. WordPress statistics clearly show that Donald Trump is a Proven Clickbait Solution. So in lieu of my usual (cough) trenchant analysis of the issues that matter, we bring you Random Notes On Donald Day.
Because if Vermont’s largest newspaper can succumb to clickbait mania, why not theVPO?
Ah, journalism in action. And speaking of food, the Kountry Kart Deli is offering a today-only special: The Donald, a stacked-high bologna sandwich with B.S. (bacon slices) on white bread. Perfect. Meanwhile, North End stalwart Nunyuns Bakery was stymied in its effort to cash in:
Wanted to make a special fish sandwich for lunch today to welcome Donald Trump to #btv today, but our supplier was out of large mouth ass.
Burlington Mayor Miro Weinberger has announced his choice for new police chief: Brandon del Pozo, a veteran of 18 years with the New York City Police Department. He has, as they say, risen rapidly through the NYPD ranks; his current post is Commanding Officer in the Strategic Initiatives Office.
Hmm. The most famous NYPD “strategic initiative” I know of is its free-range intelligence unit, which routinely ignores jurisdictional boundaries in its search for potential terrorists. According to a 2011 report on NPR, NYPD Intelligence has “teams of undercover officers… who basically just troll ethnic neighborhoods. …They also have informants known as mosque crawlers” who serve as “the eyes and ears of the police department inside the mosques.”
The latter, notes NPR, would “seem to violate the federal privacy act.” It further notes that the unit is “creative in ways that come right up against the line of what the federal government or other police departments either can do, or feel comfortable doing.”
The expansionist NYPD even has an intell office in the Middle East, which seems like quite a stretch for a city police force.