Vt. Police Chief Resigns After Anonymous Twitter Revelation

After Chief Brandon del Pozo turned in his Burlington Police Dept. badge, the mayor revealed that his replacement as police chief had operated a Facebook account under an assumed name and was being replaced herself

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The police chief in Vermont's largest city turned in his badge Monday following an episode involving secret social media use and lies about it — only for the newly appointed acting chief to be replaced over a similar issue.

Burlington Chief Brandon del Pozo's resignation was announced by Mayor Miro Weinberger, at a news conference Monday afternoon. He said the resignation likely spared the chief, the department, and city dogged scrutiny.

"With great sadness, I have accepted his decision," Weinberger said, announcing that Deputy Chief Jan Wright would be serving as interim chief while the city started the search for a permanent chief.

But shortly afterward, the mayor's office announced Monday evening, Wright revealed to Weinberger that she had a Facebook account named "Lori Spicer" "through which she made comments about and engaged citizens in discussion of Police Department policy and practice."

Weinberger said in a statement that, while she used the account under different circumstances, her "failure to raise this issue with me in the lead-up to today to constitute a lapse in judgement."

Wright is being replaced as acting chief by Deputy Chief Jon Murad, whom Weinberger said has confirmed has never engaged in anonymous social media posting.

The mayor has ordered a review of Wright's posts to see if further disciplinary action is required. It wasn't immediately clear what kind of comments Wright made.

"I will work as best as I can with my employees here to try and build trust again," Wright had said at the news conference. "That's an issue that we need to work out within our walls. And we'll do the very best that we can to work with members of the public."

The toppling of Burlington's police chief and acting police chief within the space of a few hours comes after a report last week from the newspaper Seven Days revealed that del Pozo had briefly used an anonymous Twitter account this summer to jab back at an activist and frequent police critic.

Worse, when asked about it by reporter Courtney Lamdin, del Pozo repeatedly lied.

"I was very troubled by what the chief did last July," Weinberger said Monday, noting that despite his disappointment in del Pozo's actions on Twitter, he did believe the chief deserved another chance after he took a leave of absence this summer.

Weinberger cited several reasons for that view. He told reporters the Twitter account in question was only active for less than an hour, how del Pozo brought his own actions to the mayor's attention last summer, and how medical professionals said the chief's actions were attributable to a mental health condition.

We're just hearing about all this now because the city had treated the episode as a private medical issue. Weinberger said it is his position that people should have a right to medical privacy.

The chief suffered serious head and brain injuries in an off-duty bike crash in 2018, telling necn & NBC 10 Boston in July of 2018 that his injuries would take time to heal.

"My helmet saved my life," del Pozo said last year.

Friday was opening day of the Vermont International Film Festival in Burlington, an event showcasing close to 60 films of all styles from around the world.

Friday, after word got out about the hidden-identity Twitter trolling in July, del Pozo admitted that, for one hour on July 4, he used an anonymous Twitter account to respond to the critic. He said he erased the tweets, deleted the account because he realized he was wrong and suggested his actions were related to his health.

"I came back to work too soon," he said Friday. "I was back before the doctors wanted me to."

Del Pozo went on to say then that he was surprised at himself for opening the fake account and regrets what he did, calling it "out of character."

On Friday, del Pozo said he didn't expect to resign, but that apparently changed over the weekend.

Weinberger said he believes the former chief realized how the issue would likely continue to hound him and the department for some time to come, so he decided to spare himself and his family that discomfort.

"I'm looking forward to future opportunities to serve, and happy and healthy times with my family," del Pozo wrote Monday on social media.

Also Monday, Mayor Weinberger praised del Pozo for several initiatives, including taking a leading role in elevating attention on opioid misuse.

In the resignation letter tweeted from his verified account, the outgoing chief said he's looking forward to finishing his Ph.D. in political philosophy and helping start a research institute about policing and public health.

NBC/Associated Press
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