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Burlington City Council To Vote On Mayor's Controversial Police Chief Pick

Burlington's City Council is set to vote Monday night on Mayor Miro Weinberger's pick to head up the Burlington Police Department.

Concerns about the mayor's choice — New York City Deputy Inspector Brandon Del Pozzo — have some residents asking for assurance that the department is committed to bias-free policing.

Del Pozzo's views on racial profiling — especially those expressed in an essay in the early 2000s — have raised concerns that Burlington's minority populations would be treated unfairly by police.

Del Pozzo clarified his position in an interview with VPR on Friday, saying racial profiling "has no place" in policing.

Denise Dunbar of Georgia said she's been unfairly profiled by police in Chittenden County before, and she says she doesn't want that practice to happen in Burlington, where minority populations are growing.

"What I think is important is all those stops where there's no violation other than an officer seeing a face of color in the car and stopping them with whatever preconceived notion they may have," she said in an interview Friday.

Dunbar wants police in Burlington and across Vermont to commit to collecting race data about people who are stopped and not cited for any violations.

Del Pozzo said race data doesn't need to be recorded for prosecution reasons because a traffic violation has nothing to do with race, "but as far as police management goes, it's a useful management tool, it's a useful oversight tool, to know the race of somebody you're stopping at a traffic stop so you can look for evidence of bias."

A 2012 University of Vermont study found that black residents are pulled over at a disproportionately high rate in Chittenden County.

Dunbar says ongoing data collection will help police and the communities they serve know if improvements are needed.

As to the council's vote on Del Pozzo tonight, Dunbar says she doesn't have an opinion either way — she just wants to make sure the questions are asked.

"It's all about due dilligence," she said.

Monday's meeting is scheduled to start shortly after 7 p.m. in Burlington's City Hall.

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