Police Chief Who Admitted Creating Anonymous Twitter Account to Mock Critic Resigns Hours Before Deputy Admits She Also Used a Fake Facebook Account

Police Car Burlington
A police car blocks the road outside of the Flynn Center for the Performing Arts where an event was being hosted on January 7, 2016 in Burlington, Vermont. Scott Eisen/Getty

The chief of police of Vermont's largest city resigned Monday after admitting that he had created a Twitter account to "troll" a self-described left-wing political activist. Just hours later, the city's deputy also admitted to using a fake account on Facebook.

Brandon del Pozo, formerly the police chief of Burlington, Vermont, offered his resignation just after noon Monday after acknowledging he created an anonymous Twitter account to harass Charles Winkleman, a local liberal activist known to criticize del Pozo and the police department.

Monday evening, it also came to light that Burlington's Deputy Police Chief Jan Wright, also had a "secret" social media account. As CBS-affiliate WCAX reported, Wright admitted that she sometimes used a fake Facebook account called "Lori Spicer" to discuss issues pertaining to the police with citizens online.

Wright was originally designated to step up as police chief until the mayor became aware of her "Lori Spicer" account. Now, Deputy Chief Jon Murad, who has said he does not post anonymously to social media, is the acting police chief for the city of Burlington.

"Mayor Weinberger, Deputy Murad, Deputy Wright, and the police commission need to resign," Winkleman said in a statement that he shared with Newsweek. "The police commission should be elected by voters and not by the city council, which is wholly unable to keep residents safe."

Newsweek contacted the Burlington Police Department via email for comments but did not receive a reply before publication.

The news of del Pozo's resignation came during a 12 p.m. press conference held by Burlington's mayor, Miro Weinberger, at the Burlington Police Department's headquarters, the Vermont newspaper Seven Days reported.

Del Pozo admitted to Seven Days that he created and ran the account, @WinkleWatchers, on Dec. 12. He had denied doing so since July when the paper began questioning him about it.

Del Pozo said made the account with his personal cell phone while he was off-duty on July 4, Seven Days reported, and sent about 10 messages to Winkleman. He has since deleted the account, but Winkleman shared screenshots of them with the paper.

On Dec.13, a day after the former police chief confessed to a Seven Days reporter that he had been behind the account, Mayor Weinberger issued a news release that confirmed that he had known about del Pozo's connection to the account since July 28—after del Pozo told him himself.

According to the release, Weinberger said he was "troubled" by the revelation and immediately put the chief on administrative leave, bidding him to abstain from using social media. He then ordered an investigation into del Pozo's actions. While the investigation determined that del Pozo had not broken any laws, it did determine that the chief had acted in a way that was "unacceptable, inappropriate, and not consistent with" the mayor's expectations.

Weinberger further wrote that del Pozo had an "underlying mental health condition" that impaired his judgment, which Seven Days linked to a brain injury del Pozo sustained in a 2018 biking accident. The press release read that the city gave del Pozo a six-week Family and Medical Leave of Absence, after which he was allowed to return to duty because (among other reasons), del Pozo self-reported the error and had otherwise performed well as chief.

"Upon his return to work, I formally reprimanded the Chief and warned him that any repeat of the problematic conduct would result in his immediate termination," the mayor wrote.

By Monday, however, it had been decided that del Pozo would resign from the position of chief of police.

Del Pozo tweeted a letter of resignation addressed to Weinberger just after 12 p.m. EST on Monday. In the letter, del Pozo made no direct reference to the incident involving @WinkleWatchers, but expressed gratitude for the accomplishments the police department made while he was chief and thanked the mayor for allowing him to serve the city of Burlington since he moved there in 2015.

"Serving a city as its chief is the noblest thing I have ever done," he wrote. "Thank you for giving me the opportunity to do so in the finest city in New England and one of the best places to live in America."

It was such an honor and a privilege to be our city's Chief of Police. I'm looking forward to future opportunities to serve, and happy and healthy times with my family. pic.twitter.com/ws6KqkgcCu

— Brandon del Pozo, PhD, MPA, MA (@BrandondelPozo) December 16, 2019
Twitter

This piece has been updated to include a statement from Charles Winkleman as well as information regarding Burlington Deputy Police Chief Jan Wright's fake Facebook account.