‘Unintended Consequences’: NBC Shocked Defund the Police Hurt Lib City

Like a child who’s about to touch the stovetop for the first time, NBC Nightly News was in for a rude awakening Thursday night as they discovered that the Defund the Police movement they supported actually harmed the liberal stronghold of Burlington, Vermont. Correspondent Stephanie Gosk was shocked to discover the “unintended consequences” of cutting the police department’s budget by 30 percent, leaving people feeling unsafe.

“In Burlington, Vermont roll call looks a little different than it used to,” she announced as she began the report. “Often just five officers are on shift for a city of more than 44,000 after Burlington’s leaders cut the police force by nearly 30 percent. Essentially imposing a hiring freeze.”

This result came after the network, along with ABC and CBS, engaged in Orwellian doublespeak last summer and tried to tell Americans that “defund the police” didn’t actually mean defunding the police.

“Tonight, across the country, there is a growing movement to defund police departments. But what exactly does that mean? Well, apparently not the same thing to everybody,” wondered anchor Lester Holt on June 8, 2020.

Correspondent Morgan Radford answered Holt moments later, saying: “The movement calls for cutting down police budgets and reinvesting that money into services for marginalized communities.”

Gosk even spoke with a City Council member who supported the move and admitted that “absolutely” there were “unintended consequences,” when prompted. She also spoke to a local business owner who said he and his family now felt unsafe in the city. Gosk was shocked:

GOSK: Mark Buchet and his family have owned this home goods store for 35 years. He says the police couldn’t respond quickly to disturbances, prioritizing more serious calls. He and his staff felt their absence.

BUCHET: I said, “we don’t feel safe in the evenings.” And that —

GOSK: In Burlington, Vermont?!

BUCHET: In Burlington, Vermont.

And despite the results of defunding the police staring her in the face, Gosk still tried to suggest the department was racist and deserved having their budget slashed. “Burlington police data shows black drivers have long been disproportionately stopped and then searched. And there were recent controversies of use of force involving black men and people with mental health issues,” she said.

Acting Police Chief Jon Murad described how the criticism of the department requests for change “had real merit,” but recalled that the moves against them were not being done “with any kind of specificity or deliberation.”

“The exit interviews have been pretty clear that it was about a lack of support in a political sense and a sense of saying that, ‘I — this is not how I want to serve anymore. I don’t feel valued,’” Murad added. And he described the Defund the Police movement as “a grand experiment on a national and local level that’s gone awry.”

The transcript is below, click “expand” to read:

NBC Nightly News
December 16, 2021
7:19:29 p.m. Eastern

LESTER HOLT: Back now with our series Future of the Force. In 2020, as calls to defund the police spread, only a handful of cities actually did it. So, are the new approaches working? Stephanie Gosk goes inside one city’s experiment in police reform.

[Cuts to video]

STEPHANIE GOSK: In Burlington, Vermont roll call looks a little different than it used to. Often just five officers are on shift for a city of more than 44,000 after Burlington’s leaders cut the police force by nearly 30 percent. Essentially imposing a hiring freeze.

JON MURAD (Burlington, Vermont acting police chief): We had huge numbers of people making real demands about changing policing. Saying, “we don’t want police to participate in certain kinds of calls for service. We don’t want as many police.” All of which had real merit, but none of which was being done with any kind of specificity or deliberation.

GOSK: In the wake of George Floyd’s murder, the City Council voted to divert part of its police budget to social and racial justice programs. But working officers began to leave faster than anticipated. Down to just 64 in a short period of time. Many who left felt like the city turned on them.

Did they tell you why?

MURAD: They do.

GOSK: What have they said to you.

MURAD: The exit interviews have been pretty clear that it was about a lack of support in a political sense and a sense of saying that, “I — this is not how I want to serve anymore. I don’t feel valued.”

GOSK: Counselor Zoraya Hightower felt like reform was overdue.

ZORAYA HIGHTOWER (city councilor): We had all these issues leading up to the pandemic and leading up to the murder of George Floyd. For us it wasn’t just a national problem. It was a problem here at home.

GOSK: Burlington police data shows black drivers have long been disproportionately stopped and then searched. And there were recent controversies of use of force involving black men and people with mental health issues.

HIGHTOWER: We’re a relatively good department, but it’s kind of a low bar when you look at policing in America. And I do think we’ve got great people in our police department who want to do the right thing. But that’s not the same thing as the outcomes.

GOSK: With fewer officers, some routine patrols topped altogether.

MARC BUCHET: They’re just not there.

GOSK: Mark Buchet and his family have owned this home goods store for 35 years. He says the police couldn’t respond quickly to disturbances, prioritizing more serious calls. He and his staff felt their absence.

BUCHET: I said, “we don’t feel safe in the evenings.” And that —

GOSK: In Burlington, Vermont?!

BUCHET: In Burlington, Vermont.

GOSK: It’s all taken its toll on those who remain.

What is the moral right now at the Burlington Police Department?

SGT. DAN DELAGO (BPD): It’s in rough shape. I know that what has been expressed to me from officers and even my own frustrations about the job not being able to police as effectively as we once could.

GOSK: Realizing there was a problem, this fall, the City Council reversed course and voted to bring back more officers.

HIGHTOWER: We’re in a situation that I think nobody wanted us to get to.

GOSK: In other words, there are some unintended consequences?

HIGHTOWER: Oh, absolutely.

GOSK: The department hired social workers to handle mental health calls and other community issues. Now, Chief Jon Murad is working to rebuild his ranks.

MURAD: Ultimately, we don’t want to defund. We want to fund. Good policing is expensive. I think that has ultimately proven to be a grand experiment on a national and local level that’s gone awry.

GOSK: Stephanie Gosk, NBC News, Burlington.

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