Del Pozo has a history of acting as both a police chief and a judge, inserting himself into private citizens’ and other officials’ jurisdiction through the media and social media, while also erratically choosing if, when, and how much, public information will be shared. The recent police altercation with Burlington 16-year-old Phin Brown is especially telling of the Chief’s impulsiveness and need to stay in the limelight, while also highlighting the trouble he has separating his personal feelings from his professional work. Del Pozo’s social media presence revolves not around transparency, justice, or community policing, but rather around boosting and protecting his personal profile and narrative.
Del Pozo’s checkered social media presence goes back to at least the summer of 2017, when former Burlington City Councilor Bedrosian brought a complaint to the city council regarding inappropriate messaging from del Pozo. The concerns eventually even made its way into Seven Days, but his behavior has never corrected.
The confusion around del Pozo’s social media presence is that his public persona is so intertwined with the Burlington Police Department’s social media that it’s often hard to tell where del Pozo begins and the department ends. He seems to decide whether he is representing himself or the department in any given situation not based on any consistent or transparent system, but rather by what will serve him best.
Phin Brown’s complaint against Burlington police officers, and del Pozo’s reaction to that complaint, highlight this increasingly problematic dynamic. It’s not just del Pozo’s unwillingness to even entertain meaningful oversight over himself or his department, but his total inability, while expecting everyone else involved in the criminal justice system, to accept personal responsibility and do reparative work.
In fact del Pozo’s inability to take responsibility was front and center during Phin Brown’s media storm. Not only did del Pozo release private information about a minor, but according to VTDigger, he also stated,
“I don’t have the authority or role of analyzing or intervening or opinion-ing on Secret Service operations,” del Pozo said. “I urge people to ask the Secret Service for an account of what they’ve done and reconcile it with the concerns of the citizen.”
Yet when it serves del Pozo’s narrative, he has no problem commenting on other law enforcement and their operations. For example,
- Del Pozo made a comment in 2018 about ICE detaining a Kansas professor, in Kansas, not Vermont.
- Del Pozo has publicly criticized US Attorney General Jeff Sessions regarding sanctuary cities.
- He has publicly criticized Chittenden County State Attorney Sarah George for not pressing charges in a criminal case.
- He criticized trainers at Vermont Police Academy for a training program that injured officers.
On top of this, Del Pozo seems to believe in transparency only when he can control both the narrative and outcome, which is why he repeatedly aired private information about Phin Brown, a minor. More examples include:
- Del Pozo chose not to release public information of an individual who hit and killed an elderly man with his car.
- Del Pozo wouldn’t release police bodycam footage of an officer harassing a child unless hundreds of dollars were paid, but released footage of Phin Brown for free.
- Del Pozo posted photos of someone in jail and included personal details of their arrest history, making them easily identifiable.
- He outed someone arrested and in need of opioid treatment without their consent.
- He shared medical and criminal history of a citizen with high mental health needs.
- He publicly shared that a suspect had been to drug court previously, in essence condemning someone with substance use disorder for not rehabilitating after their first treatment.
- He let his own personal feelings about a case influence the handling of said case.
- He tacitly acknowledged that department resources are used in a non-consistent manner, depending on officers’ and his own personal feelings.
In each instance del Pozo made a unilateral choice not connected to department values, but rather to his public persona and personal feelings. This behavior is concerning because laws and policies should be applied equally and evenly, democratically overseen by a group of elected citizens, not decided by a single person who has a personal stake and very public reputation in each outcome. We need a police chief who is a public servant invested in the entire community, not a chief who acts more like a politician always looking for positive press and public accolades.
Who does Chief del Pozo protect and serve? Himself.