BURLINGTON, Vt. (LOCAL22/44) — Officials in Vermont’s biggest city are considering adding several new positions to the Police Department using money from the recently-created Police Transformation Fund.
Speaking at a joint meeting of the City Council Public Safety Committee and the Burlington Police Commission, Mayor Miro Weinberger explored the concept of embedding several social workers in the police department. The employees would operate as community liaisons.
“There are definitely a growing number of successful examples of exactly this kind of model – embedded social workers within the police department,” Weinberger said. “Doing it that way ensures that there’s good coordination between the sworn officers and these social workers in situations that require coordination.”
Weinberger said these positions could potentially allow for someone other than a sworn officer take the lead in responding to mental health calls. He expressed hope that the positions would also increase the city’s ability to follow up with those who are cited or arrested on opioid-related incidents with resources for treatment.
Plans are still in the early stages, but Councilor Perri Freeman had several questions regarding the specifics of how the positions would operate day-to-day.
“Are they more of a responder, are they doing mental health care?” Freeman asked. “How do they engage with the community, how accessible are they, how do we view those roles?
Interim Chief Jon Murad gave some background on how the community affairs liaisons might go about their work.
“Being in the field more often, going out at times for people who are houseless, in mental health crises, have suffered substances abuse issues particularly post-overdose,” Murad said. “Also addressing the kind of problems that take up officer time in regards to type 1 calls.”
Murad offered some examples of the “Type 1 calls” he referred to, which included noise complaints and minor neighbor disputes.
“Can a person go to those kinds of calls when they are coming in? I don’t know that yet,” Murad said. “One of the challenges we’re going to have is the fact that calls very frequently, not all the time but very frequently, are not what they come in as.”
Mayor Weinberger credited Councilor Franklin Paulino for approaching him with this idea in the past. Paulino said he’d like to see candidates that are already involved in this work on a local level.
“These are good jobs you’re about to give, if you’re a social worker and you’re going to be a city employee now, that’s a huge opportunity,” Paulino said. “You have the ability to pick some very talented people up, and I hope that we give some level of preference to local people.”
Mayor Weinberger estimated the positions would take up anywhere from $100,000 to $150,000, and funding would come from the $250,000 set aside in this year’s budget for the Police Transformation Fund.
- 50 million and counting: 11 days out, early voting in 2020 surpasses 2016 total
- COVID-19 vaccine trial from AstraZeneca, Oxford approved to resume in US
- Asteroid samples escaping from jammed NASA spacecraft: ‘Time is of the essence’
- Granville school community builds 25 desks for remote students
- Officials track down first-ever ‘murder hornet’ nest in Washington