Council member tries to debunk rumors of police profiling during Juneteenth bash

A member of Burlington’s city council spoke up this week to quash a viral rumor that the city’s police department had ramped up patrols during a city-sponsored Juneteenth celebration on Friday.

During a city council meeting on Tuesday, council member Dejuana Bigelow took on the proverbial rumor mill in order to debunk this claim of targeted policing, which had apparently been making the rounds on Facebook since the city’s recreation department staged its annual Juneteenth festival.

The rec department’s event, which took place at Burlington’s North Park from 6:00 p.m. until 8:00 p.m. on Friday, was a somewhat early commemoration of Juneteenth – a federally recognized holiday that marks the moment on June 19, 1865 when the Union Army emancipated the South’s last remaining black slaves upon its arrival in Texas.

Bigelow, who is Burlington’s only black council member, recalled that she was already hearing tales of a heightened police presence when she took her own family to the city-sponsored gala that afternoon.

“My family came around 6:45 or 7:00,” she recalled at the end of a regularly-scheduled city council meeting, “and I didn’t see any police presence.”

Bigelow ultimately called on Burlington’s police chief Alan Balog to explain just what had happened to give some residents the impression that police were prowling the streets for Juneteenth celebrants. Balog, for his part, acknowledged that the mix-up arose from an unrelated traffic enforcement operation along Rauhut Street – the primary thoroughfare that leads to North Park.

“Friday is what we call a patrol overlap day, which means we have some additional staff working to address community problems,” the city’s police chief went on to recall. “When we evaluate where the staff are gonna go work, the first thing we do is look what the public has asked for…We were aware of a specific request on Facebook about speeding on Rauhut Street…So, we had officers in that area to address this specific complaint from about 5:00 [p.m.] to 6:15 [p.m.]”

Balog said that his officers conducted a total of 15 traffic stops that afternoon – all of which involved drivers who were going more than 15 miles an hour above the posted limit. He added that none of these stops had anything to do with the event underway at North Park.

“The proximity to the Juneteenth celebration was coincidental,” he stressed.