Executive Director responds to NY Times OP-ED by Burlington VT Police chief

Executive Director responds to NY Times OP-ED by Burlington VT Police chief

December 14, 2019

As the Executive Director of the New England PBA, the largest all exclusive law enforcement labor union in New England, as well as the largest police union within the State of Vermont, we take exception to an Op-Ed article published in THE NEW YORK TIMES by Chief of Police Brandon del Pozo of the Burlington, VT. Police Department entitled, “I’m a Police Chief. We need to Change How Officers View Their Guns.”

As a member of the Board of Directors for the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund (NLEOMF) & Museum, which not only honors those law enforcement officers killed in the line of duty; but educates and teaches the public with interactive demonstrations on the precise dangers law enforcement officers face when associated with this type of interaction and depicts how dangerous a knife-wielding subject truly is – something I would encourage this Chief to partake in.

In fact, as a thirty-three year veteran law enforcement officer, including twenty-eight with the Lowell, MA Police Department, as well as a nearly forty-year labor leader on the local, state and national stage, I am both appalled and sickened by the lack of decorum displayed by the Chief of Police from the largest city in the state of Vermont. His egregious attempt to utilize the liberal media as his conduit and to pander to the ultra-liberal city council of the city in which he serves is both detrimental to EVERY police officer across this country and more importantly to those under his command in the City of Burlington, VT.

Clearly, his education is unquestionably one of impeccable standards, however his recent moronic actions show either a severe mental issue and/or his lack of knowledge regarding his own communication and training skills. Moreover, his actions this week in admitting that he utilizing an anonymous Twitter account to troll a government critic certainly lends credence to the validity of his ability to serve in his capacity as Chief, much less address or be the voice of authority regarding the issue of training and communication skills of those officers who are thrust into action and whose lives depend on the use of deadly force with a knife-wielding suspect. In addressing his own incompetence, in which he questions his own mental health issues by taking six-weeks of sick leave to address mental health issue, we concur and hope he gets the help he so desperately needs.

Additionally, how any police officer with the extensive education and experience with the NYPD could second guess the actions of another police officer simply by watching a video by is reprehensible. He, unlike the responding officers in these videos, already knew all these suspects were either mentally ill and/or were attempting “Suicide by Cop.” This is not a new phenomenon, but rather a vehicle to which those who are mentally ill or those who simply wish to utilize this avenue because they lack the ability themselves or have visions of going out in a blaze of glory, like in the movies or in video games, something that again is unbeknown to the officer arriving on scene.

However, I would respectfully like to address a few of the misnomers and completely inaccurate statements of which Chief Brandon del Pozo stated in his Op-Ed to the highly regarded publication that is THE NEW YORK TIMES:

First, his statement begins with and reads; “Few things are more harrowing than watching a video of a police officer confront a person in emotional crisis armed with a knife or other similar object. The officer almost always points a gun and yells, “Drop it!” If staring down the barrel of a gun isn’t enough to give a person pause, yelling at him or her is unlikely to make a difference.

RESPONSE: Verbal Commands are not simply to give a person pause, although in many cases this may be enough to defuse the situation and/or alter the impending tragic results; but rather to alert the public and draw attention to the situation in an attempt to have others leave the area and to avoid a possible hostage situation.

In Graham v. Conner (1989) The United States Supreme Court ruled the field of study with verbal skills was a result of what “A reasonable Officer believed” – not a reasonable person! Which again, shows the SJC ruled that a trained police officer has the ability to elevate or defuse high stress situations in a loud and concise manner with verbal command skills?

As a contributing author to PERF on “Community Policing: A View from the Street”, I respect the work that Executive Director Chuck Wexler and his organization does to address policing issues and the training they do regarding Command Staff Executives, but when did Chief del Pozo became their spokesperson?

There are multiple instances including (just yesterday), a Massachusetts State Trooper working a police detail who was repeatedly stabbed by an assailant with a reflector vest acting as a state highway worker – before he was finally shot by the Trooper. Ironically, another Massachusetts State Trooper stopped a suspect who stole a car from the state of

Vermont and was also stabbed before he too was finally shot by the Trooper. Yet, Weymouth, MA Police Officer
Michael Chesna was not as fortunate as he was beaten unconscious with a rock by a suspect who then shot and killed this officer with his own service weapon.

Perhaps, Chief del Pozo needs to re-evaluate not only his own cowardly actions; rather than addressing the life and death actions of true heroes who simply are hoping to come home each night to their families.


Jerry Flynn
New England Police Benevolent Association, Inc.