If one city councilor in Burlington, Vermont has her way, the police in the town might have to give up their guns. Perri Freeman brought up the idea during a recent city council meeting and says that she hopes to spur a conversation about the expectations and training of police officers in the community.
Freeman, who is a progressive Democrat, pointed out that other countries do not have armed police forces.
"Realizing that there are actually several countries where they're not using firearms for their regular police duties. Just to name a few: the U.K., Ireland, Iceland," Freeman told WCAX. "I started thinking critically about what is the next step in terms of policing practices, whether that's having more sophisticated training for officers, having a different expectation."
The head of Burlington's police officers union blasted her idea because it ignores the fact that many Americans legally own guns. He explained that disarming the police would make them vulnerable, especially in potentially dangerous situations.
"There are a lot of guns around, and we as the police, try to put ourselves in the position of advantage all the time, and to show up to an armed incident unarmed? I can't think of anything more disadvantaged than that," said Dan Gilligan, President of the Burlington Police Officer's Association.
Her plan is unlikely to be enacted as she does not appear to have support from the mayor or other members of the council.
"I think it's really quite unrealistic to think they can do their job effectively and be safe themselves and keep the public safe if they were to be disarmed," Burlington Mayor Miro Weinberger said. "My sense is this is an idea that is really out of touch with the reality that the men and women of the Burlington Police Department face as they work every day to keep the city safe."
While Freeman admits there might be situations where officers need to be armed, she hopes her suggestion will lead to discussions about policing tactics.
"It's not an overnight thing. It's a gradual program. It's talking about how do we really shift and talk about doing things maybe differently in a way that might be better in the long run," she said.