Burlington Police Chief Says Trump Remarks 'Drive The Wedge' Between Police And Public

Jul 31, 2017

Police in Vermont have joined law enforcement officials across the country in condemning remarks by President Donald Trump that appeared to condone excessive force by cops.

During a speech to police officers on Long Island on Friday, Trump urged them not to be “too nice” to suspects. The president also suggested officers not protect suspects’ heads when putting them in police cruisers.

In a post on Facebook this weekend, Burlington Police Chief Brandon del Pozo wrote that officers “are now in the position of having to protect criminal suspects from people like the president.”

In a telephone interview Monday, del Pozo said he was “disappointed,” but “not surprised” by Trump’s remarks.

“I don’t think the president gives a lot of thought to what he says, and I’ve been quiet about that in many respects because it doesn’t fall in line with my profession,” del Pozo said. “But I’ll say that here about this, because it bears on the work my police do and it bears on how they’re viewed by the public.”

Del Pozo says he thinks Trump’s rhetoric Friday could inflame tensions between police and the communities they serve. Police organizations nationwide have issued similar condemnations.

“To say that it’s okay — the president cajoling police to give into these urges — is the absolute wrong way to frame American policing,” del Pozo said. “And it’ll also call into question legitimate uses of force that police engage in, and it’ll also drive the wedge of distrust between police and our skeptics deeper.”

"To say that it's okay — the president cajoling police to give into these urges — is the absolute wrong way to frame American policing." — Burlington Police Chief Brandon del Pozo

Top officials at the Vermont Department of Public Safety also weighed in publicly on Trump’s remarks. In a joint statement issued Sunday, Public Safety Commissioner Thomas Anderson and Col. Matthew Birmingham, director of the Vermont State Police, said:

"All Vermont communities rightfully expect that law enforcement in Vermont will have an uncompromising commitment to principles of professionalism, including responsibility and compassion for all individuals with whom they come into contact. This includes the general public, motorists, and those taken into custody for criminal activity. ...

"Statements by any public official condoning or encouraging the unreasonable use of force or the mistreatment of individuals in police custody are inappropriate and antithetical to professional policing and the mission of the Department of Public Safety."

Trump delivered his controversial remarks to an audience of police officers, and del Pozo says it’s regrettable the speech went over as well as it did.

“And I have to say, he elicited the darker side of the officers in that room who applauded and cheered. And that was very disturbing to watch as well,” del Pozo said.