BURLINGTON — The Burlington City Council confirmed Jon Murad as police chief Monday night, ending a more than three-year period in which the city had only acting chiefs leading the department.
Eight councilors voted in favor of Murad’s confirmation late Monday, while four voted against it.
Each member of the body, except Council President Karen Paul, D-Ward 6, shared their feelings about Murad prior to the vote. Following the vote, Paul took a step back and recognized the occasion.
“As a body, we all recognize that public safety, meaning keeping everyone in our community safe, is a solemn commitment,” said Paul, who backed Murad’s confirmation. She went on to tell Murad that no matter how councilors voted, she felt that each of them was “eager to work with you in good faith.”
Progressive members of the council continued to oppose Murad’s confirmation on Monday, citing many of the same reasons they had brought up at his failed confirmation vote in 2022. They took exception to Murad’s view that racial bias isn’t a problem within the police department and expressed discomfort with Murad’s demeanor, particularly with a recently reported incident with a University of Vermont Medical Center emergency department doctor.
But after councilors’ views and commitments to how they would vote gradually came out on Monday night, some of those Progressives predicted how the vote would go.
“Anybody who’s listening and looking can read the tea leaves,” Councilor Gene Bergman, P-Ward 2, said. “I believe you will be appointed tonight. I want to thank you for your hard work.”
However, Bergman voted no, along with Progressives Melo Grant, Central District; Joe Magee, Ward 3; and Zoraya Hightower, Ward 1.
On May 25, Weinberger announced his intention to bring Murad forward during a press conference on the steps of City Hall. Weinberger was joined by over 40 others who supported the appointment.
Monday’s vote was the mayor’s second try at a Murad appointment. With Progressive opposition, the council denied Murad the position in February 2022. Progressives who remain on the council still oppose Murad’s appointment, but the council makeup has changed, with Democrats now controlling a plurality of seats.
Police chiefs in the city have worked on an acting basis only since December 2019, when then-Chief Brandon Del Pozo stepped down.
During a lengthy public comment period earlier in the meeting, 13 people spoke in favor of Murad while six spoke against. Some of those comments included former city councilors.
Former Council President Max Tracy, who voted against Murad last year, said there hadn’t been enough progress on oversight and pointed to reports of Murad acting aggressively toward people, including women of color. He said that before the controversy surrounding former chief Del Pozo, there were other red flags.
“In this case, there are plenty of warning signs, but if you choose to ignore them, that will be on you,” Tracy said.
Former New North End councilor Dave Hartnett also chimed in, speaking in favor of Murad. He said that Murad had made mistakes and was not perfect, but “nobody said that” and his term as acting chief had amounted to a “three-year job interview.”
“The only way we’re going to turn this department around is to have true leadership,” Hartnett said. “And until we have that, we’re going to be in the same situation over and over again.”