photo from 7 Days
By Kahlia Livingston, PJC Board of Directors
Oh, no Brandon Del Pozo, your recent headlines have almost brought me to a loss for words.
During this past summer, Chief of Police Brandon Del Pozo created an anonymous Twitter profile to cyber bully Burlington resident and political activist Charles Winkleman. Winkleman is a police critic who often uses their social media to highlight injustices in our community and harness the attention of locals. Del Pozo did not take a liking to Winkleman’s opinions and plotted their retaliation over a large bowl of petty-spaghetti. The Chief of Police brought their devious plan into fruition after they quote-tweeted a series of Winkleman’s tweets and added their own distasteful remarks as responses.
Brandon Del Pozo was later confronted about this anon-account activity but denied their involvement until eventually coming clean to Mayor Miro Weinberger. Although Del Pozo’s social media conduct can be argued to exemplify that of an adolescent, Del Pozo expressed that their battle with mental health issues was their motive for engaging with Winkleman. This notion would be easier to forgive if Del Pozo didn’t pull the same sh** a year prior, when they used their personal Facebook profile to debate with a teenager who accused police officers of corruption. Del Pozo has clearly developed a problematic reputation for being reckless on social media.
Weinberger was aware of Del Pozo’s past social media misuse and threatened to remove the Chief from their position if they continued such behavior. After this second instance, the Mayor went against their previous threat and placed Del Pozo on just six weeks of medical leave and allowed them to return to work after being cleared by mental health professionals.
The abuse of power that the Burlington Police Department and Mayor Weinberger have inflicted on the community cloaked as mental health issues is unacceptable. I have the utmost respect for the folks acknowledging their mental health issues and progressing toward wellness. However, if your mental health causes you to be unfit to carry out your work appropriately then remove yourself from the position. When working in positions of authority, I say that last statement with triple the emphasis.
Mayor Weinberger’s and the Department’s consideration for mental health issues is appreciated but I’m going to need them to keep that same “Mental Health Awareness” energy for local residents as well. The City of Burlington recently settled a case from the tragic, fatal shooting of Wayne Brunette inflicted by police officer Ethan Thibault of Burlington in 2013. It is sickeningly clear that the authorities did not extend the same compassion for mental health issues to Mr. Brunette before they were killed outside of their parents’ home.
As we consciously move forward in our community, I hope that the state of one’s mental health is considered by members of authority in all scenarios but especially before hiring, arresting, or using any fatal forces. Chief Brandon Del Pozo may have gotten a second chance but we must acknowledge the tragic outcomes of the many others who did not.