Home to the crusading ice cream company Ben & Jerry’s and the liberal senator Bernie Sanders, Burlington has long been known as a cradle of progressive politics.
So when chants of “defund the police” began to ring out across US cities in the wake of Floyd’s murder in 2020, Burlington led the way.
The city had its own history of racial disparities in its policing, including a string of controversial incidents involving police brutality against black men.
Just a month after Mr Floyd’s killing, the city council had voted to reduce its police force by almost 30 per cent, one of the most drastic cuts in the country.
The resolution to cap the number of active officers from 105 to 74 was intended to happen through attrition, with the funding gradually diverted to social and racial justice initiatives.
But the city’s councillors had not anticipated what came next.
Police officers began to quit or retire en masse. Almost 18 months on, the police force says it now has just 63 active officers.
Only five are able to patrol the town of 44,000 at night, according to Burlington’s police chief.
While there is not yet enough comprehensive data to draw firm conclusions, the early indications are that the drop in officers has been coupled with a rise in violent crime rates.
Burlington Police’s own figures suggest that while overall crime has fallen by roughly 11 per cent in the last year, incidents of violent crime have increased.
Of particular concern is the rise in gunfire in the city, which increased 367 per cent from 2019. Aggressive assaults have increased by 24 per cent over the same period.
In response, the city council reversed course, voting to raise officers numbers to 79.