Thursday March 15, 2018
Meet South Burlington’s next police chief, Shawn Burke. A 21-year veteran of the Burlington Police Department (BPD) and currently its deputy chief of operations, Burke was introduced to city council March 7 by City Manager Kevin Dorn as his top pick for South Burlington’s new chief of police. With the impending retirement of South Burlington Police Department (SBPD) Chief of Police Trevor Whipple in January 2019, Dorn reported that a tentative agreement has been reached with Burke to fill the role.
“Shawn Burke has the exact profile that we were looking for in a chief to follow in Trevor’s footsteps,” said Dorn in a March 9 press release. “We have one of the premier departments in the state if not in New England and so we had the opportunity to go out and recruit the very best candidate for this job.”
During his tenure at BPD, Burke moved up through the organization, rising progressively in rank and gaining significant experience in the Detective Service Bureau and the Uniform Service Bureau. He has also served as part of the Drug Task Force, later serving as the leader of that organization, and has been involved in various high profile homicide investigations. He is a graduate of the prestigious FBI National Academy in addition to having earned a Bachelor of Science Degree in Integrated Studies at Champlain College.
Chief Whipple says it was with mixed emotions that he announced, in January, that he will retire in 2019 after 12 years serving the citizens of South Burlington, and lauds the community for its support and help in building a premiere law enforcement agency. He said, “The selection of Shawn Burke assures that the hardworking, well trained staff at the South Burlington Police Department will have a skilled and dedicated police executive who will lead them into the future. Chief Burke has proven his ability to address contemporary policing issues in a manner that is in tune with the demands and expectations of the citizens of South Burlington.”
According to Dorn, Burke met all of the required qualifications for the position, including a Vermont Level 3 Certification. He notes that Burke was instrumental in instituting important policies, initiatives and practices in alignment with the President’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing during his time with BPD, and acknowledged his many accomplishments, including: use of force reform with emphasis on sanctity of life; advanced data driven policing, enhancing legitimacy and effectiveness of operations; fair and impartial policing policy development; improving police services related to those suffering mental health crisis or homelessness; and a return to neighborhood policing.
“Becoming South Burlington’s next police chief is a very exciting opportunity and I am honored by the confidence the city manager and council have placed in my candidacy. I look forward to better understanding the community’s expectations of their police, what drives crime and disorder in the city, and leveraging the incredible talents of the organization in addressing those needs,” said Burke.
“In addition to his experience and qualifications for the job, Shawn is very well known and highly respected throughout the law enforcement community in Vermont,” said Dorn, adding “Also, upon joining our team Shawn’s learning curve will be minimal as he is already familiar with our organization and geography. You just don’t get those things when hiring someone from out-of-state.”
Burke has been meeting with school, business and community leaders this week. In an informal gathering of residents at City Hall on Monday, March 12, he addressed questions about his views on a number of law enforcement topics including the opioid crisis, human trafficking, domestic violence, mental health issues, racism, and transparency.
“American policing is in a critical place; poised to respond to the opiate crisis, those with unmet social needs finding themselves in crisis, criminal justice reform, and numerous other dynamics. I am committed to establishing meaningful relationships, enhancing the transparency of police operations, and building upon the trust the citizens of South Burlington have in their police force,” Burke says.
Burke will head a department of 44 sworn officers, when it is fully staffed, and eight civilian employees.
Dorn reports that the city is completing an extensive background check, as per usual for all senior officers. He notes, “While I am confident that this will all go well, at this point, we must say that we have a tentative agreement for Shawn’s hire.”
If all goes as planned, the city anticipates Burke will join the SBPD on or around August 1, with the opportunity for a smooth changeover by the time Whipple retires in January 2019. Chief Whipple says, “I look forward to working with Shawn during our transitional period.”
Dorn added, “In the end, Shawn fit all criteria that we were looking for and I believe he will become an outstanding chief of police for South Burlington.”