Burlington's New Police Chief is a Badass

Del Pozo at the base of Trap Dike in New York's Adirondacks.
Del Pozo at the base of Trap Dike in New York's Adirondacks. Photo by Alex Tripp
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Burlington’s new Chief of Police moved to the Queen City from Brooklyn, NY after 18 years of serving with the NYPD. As soon as the job listing opened up, Brandon Del Pozo—a Dartmouth grad and a dark-haired dark knight of sorts—immediately applied for the position, citing Burlington's proximity to the mountains as a huge motivator.

“I first came to Vermont on my way to New Hampshire,” says del Pozo. “But I never made it to Burlington until the late 1990s when I was training at the Army Mountain Warfare School in Jericho, VT.” Del Pozo was the platoon leader in a mountain rifle company based out of Lebanon, NH. The platoon’s training grounds extended from the foot of the Green Mountains north to Val Cartier, Quebec. “In 1998 on a training weekend I came to Burlington for first time, and had dinner at the Vermont Pub and Brewery. And I was kind of blown away. Burlington is like the center of the outdoor universe—so close to the Green Mountains, White Mountains and Adirondacks you feel like you can touch all three.”

Del Pozo, 40, fell in love with ice climbing in the Green Mountain State.

Del Pozo roped up and ready at the 2016 Adirondack International Mountainfest.
Del Pozo roped up and ready at the 2016 Adirondack International Mountainfest. Photo by Nick Yardley

“My first time ice climbing was with straight axes and leashes on manufactured ice out the back door of the Mountain Warfare School. It was the beginning of a long period of numb wrists and numb hands, and falling a lot off on top rope. I became obsessed to that point that one of my friends gave me a set of Charlie Moser axes as a wedding present.”

Most of del Pozo’s ice climbing has been in the Adirondacks, where his family has had a home for nearly a decade, but his most memorable ice climbing has been in Vermont.

“The most grueling ascent I’ve done anywhere was following a Mountain Warfare School sergeant Bob Timmer, up Elephant Head Gully at night in Smuggler’s Notch,” remembers del Pozo. “Army Mountain Warfare had two stone buildings on Smuggler’s Notch. As students, we would sled in and spend a couple of days winter camping up there. We’d snow cat in, and build igloos or snow caves for camping. Timmer told me to meet him at 6pm to go climbing. For three pitches, all I could see was the ice directly in front of me. He yelled at me the whole time threatening that I had better not drop any gear. We were climbing on his screws and he didn’t want to lose them.”

Del Pozo applied for the Burlington job within an hour of seeing it posted. It’s the first job the Chief has applied for since 1996, when he joined the NYPD.

Del Pozo at the base of Trap Dike in New York's Adirondacks.
Del Pozo at the base of Trap Dike in New York's Adirondacks. Photo by Alex Tripp

“It was a plunge to come here from the NYPD—but I can’t think of a better place to raise my kids,” says del Pozo. “It’s the only place that could have drawn me away from New York, with the perfect mix of size, culture, progressiveness, and it’s right next to everything great about outdoors. It’s been a busy six months since I started, but moving my family here was all about being able to pursue my career as well as my passion for being outside. If you love the outdoors, in Burlington you’re never more than a few seconds away from a view of a 4,000-foot peak or Lake Champlain. There is a constant siren call that you should be outside getting after it. When I look east or west, in every season I know what people are doing on Mt. Mansfield and Camels Hump, and I want to stop everything I am doing and go join them.”

The outdoors definitely plays into the Burlington vibe, and the vibe of the Burlington Police Department (BPD). “In general,” the Chief says. “Even though they are an urban force, they are very physically fit cops. A lot of them mountain bike, hike, hunt, and some ice and rock climb. It shows in how they carry themselves.”

Fortunately for del Pozo, the cops are more outdoorsy than the criminals. Though days before our interview a man in winter camo attempted to drag a sled full of narcotics through the snow across the Canadian border, del Pozo says that “Point Break-style capers” aren’t the norm.

“He set off a motion sensor in the ice, then border patrol intercepted him,” del Pozo says. “His tracks were clear. Once they were onto him, he had nowhere to hide. I’ve hauled a lot of gear in a sled, but 185 pounds of narcotics takes the cake. I give him credit for understanding the mechanical efficiencies of a sled.”

Chief del Pozo and Niel van Dyke, Head of Search and Rescue for the State of Vermont, on the summit of Camel's Hump.
Chief del Pozo and Niel van Dyke, Head of Search and Rescue for the State of Vermont, on the summit of Camel's Hump. Photo courtesy of Brandon del Pozo

As much as he's enjoying winter sports, del Pozo is looking forward to the summer, especially the road biking in and around Burlington. “Whether it’s up Mt. Philo, or up Appalachian Gap, as I am driving and walking in and around Burlington, I get excited thinking about what’s it going to be like the summer cranking a bike up the same road or trail. I am not built for hills—but that doesn’t stop me.” He’s also excited about exploring the backcountry on skis—both in Burlington and on the flanks of the Greens.

Del Pozo has hiked the 48 New Hampshire 4000 footers. Now he’s looking forward to hiking Vermont’s highest peaks, and as much of the Long Trail as possible, with his sons. Del Pozo also can’t wait to take them to dig a snow cave and camp out on Smuggler’s Notch.“One of things that’s most important to me is making sure my boys, who are three and eight, grow up loving outdoors. I want the outdoors to be second nature for them. I don’t know of any place better than Burlington to realize that goal.”

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