Mark Hughes’ Letter of Resignation from the Burlington Police Commission

Mark A. Hughes
September 3, 2020

My resignation from the Burlington Police Commission is
effective immediately.

The statutory authority, delegated powers and design of the
commission render it ineffective. The City Attorney and the
Police Union Contract further limit any authority that the
Commission would have to provide adequate oversight. The
Department’s gatekeepers ensure limited visibility of the
Commission into the BPD. The investigation and disposition of
the social media matter leading to the resignation of Chiefs was
a complete failure and continues to be unresolved. Despite
these conditions, I continued to serve.

The handling of the discipline of the three offers involved in
violence must be framed with historical race data on traffic
stops, search rates, arrest rates, use of force and more. The
challenges must additionally be contextualized with racial
inequities in housing, employment, education, economic
development and more. This is systemic racism.

Operation Phoenix R.I.S.E. is a start in addressing systemic
racism in Burlington. “Restructuring Public Safety” is the “R” in
Rise. In addition to reducing the uniformed officer budget by
30 percent, work is underway to better understand community
values and vision for services and assess the department for
restructuring. All parties must be committed to seeing through
in earnest this plan, which was arrived at in a democratic
process.

Currently our Deputy Chief, a former mayor a former chief of
police and others instead choose to engage in divisive
campaigns that seek to undermine any hope for its success.
The mayor has a responsibility to address this and lead.

The Racial Justice Alliance calls for the removal of Officers
Corrow, Bellavance and Campbell included hundreds of callers
that spoke for hours in public testimony. The BIPOC-led
protesters in Battery Park are asking for the same thing. These
BIPOC folks are emblematic of all black folks in this city and I
am concerned that their asks are not being considered in light
of the 401 year-old problem of racism, the current racial
reckoning of a nation or the commitment to change in the City
of Burlington. The flat out dismissal of their demands is
hypocritical as we declare racism as a public health emergency
as the top concerns for danger or death of black folks like me in
Burlington is interaction with a police officer.

These protesters have been peacefully protesting for the past
ten days at risk of their lives with folks with live weapons on
site, being fired upon with B-B guns and numerous other
threats. Focusing on their on the potentially threat they pose
on so-called public safety ignores the proven threat that
policing has had on our black community from inception to
present day, indicated nationally and here in the city of
Burlington. Strategic and political decisions to elevate the
concerns of insomnia ridden residents resulting from this cry
for justice reveals the priority to return the privileged white
residents to slumber, not protect the woke black folks of
Burlington.

The problem is not that this administration does not have the
ability to take action on this demand. This administration
chooses not to take action because they are unwilling to accept
the cost of doing so. This administration is unwilling to
consider that cost that black bodies have paid throughout
history or the pornographic levels of wealth acquired by white
people as a result of it – unwilling to consider the cost that the
folks of the BIPOC-led Movement in Battery Park are
willing to pay.
At the time of this resignation, there has been
no emergency meeting scheduled for the Police Commission or
the City Council. In the absence of such quorum, no action can
be taken to a vote; vital votes that would be required to take
the actions of terminating these officers or asking for their
resignations at a minimum, despite the city attorney’s skillful
fiduciary advice. The mayor has shown no political will or
intestinal fortitude to act unilaterally on such decision.

I stand with the Racial Justice Alliance in support of the
demands of the BIPOC protesters in Battery Park. I can no
longer do so while serving as a Burlington Police
Commissioner. It is not likely that anyone in this
administration should be surprised by my position. I ask that
the Police Commission and the City Council to convene in
emergency sessions and do what you know you must. I ask the
mayor to be a history-maker by placing a priority on the
protection of black bodies above money. I call on the
community to dial in to this moment, support this movement
and vote! Black Lives Matter!

Sincerely,
Mark A. Hughes

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