Police chief admits anonymously trolling critic on Twitter

Police chief admits anonymously trolling critic on Twitter
FILE - In this April, 10, 2018, file photo, Police Chief Brandon del Pozo speaks during a news conference in Burlington , Vt., The chief told The Associated Press on Friday, Dec. 13, 2019, that he used an anonymous Twitter account in July to troll a government critic, and that he took six weeks of medical leave to seek mental health treatment after telling his story to the mayor. (AP Photo/Lisa Rathke, File)

BURLINGTON, Vt. (AP) — The police chief in Vermont’s largest city used an anonymous Twitter account to troll a government critic, he admitted this week.

Burlington Police Chief Brandon del Pozo said that he took six weeks of medical leave to seek mental health treatment after telling his story to the mayor. Seven Days weekly newspaper first reported the story Thursday.

For one hour on July 4, del Pozo said, he used the anonymous Twitter account to respond to the critic.

“I erased the tweets and deleted the account because I realized I was wrong and it wasn’t becoming of me,” he told The Associated Press in an interview Friday.

He told Seven Days that he created @WinkleWatchers to respond to political activist Charles Winkleman.

Winkleman had tweeted that “Del Pozo’s social media is meant to bully and silence critics, whether it be private citizens or oversight groups like Copwatch, all while promoting himself.”

Among the exchanges that Winkleman cites are one in which del Pozo, under the WinkleWatchers handle, responded to a tweet by Winkleman that said, “all we had to do was give up $1.5 million in federal money for the Perkin Pier,” referring to a waterfront park.

@WinkleWatchers responds in linked tweets: “I know you didn’t think it was possible, but yes, even a nice waterfront park can be … #chickytrolled. There has yet to be a troll sighting at the actual park yet. It can safely be enjoyed by people.”

When Seven Days first asked del Pozo about the Twitter account in July, he denied he was behind it.

He then realized, he said, that he needed to account for what he had done, and went to the mayor in person and confessed. He went on medical leave and returned to work in September.

Mayor Miro Weinberger did not immediately comment Friday.

Del Pozo, who was appointed chief in 2015, had a bicycle crash in 2018 in which he suffered three skull fractures and a concussion.

Taking the medical leave this summer was “to be sure that the issues resulting from my bike crash and the challenges of policing in the spring and summer weren’t the type of thing that would cause a mistake like that again,” he said.