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BUSTING BURTON: Dump police chief, suggests leading conservative CoMo booster Fred Parry

A damning allegation blames violent crime spike on CYA "marching orders"
 
COLUMBIA, Mo 8/8/13 (Beat Byte) -- A Cover Our Asses approach at the top of City Hall has so corrupted the police department "we may have to take a serious look at replacing Columbia's top cop," police chief Ken Burton.
 
So writes Columbia's leading pro-establishment pitchman Fred Parry, who publishes Inside Columbia magazine.
 
Parry has astonished readers with an August editorial that includes a damning allegation against the establishment hierarchy he usually praises.

More interested in protecting their jobs than protecting citizens, city leaders deliberately hamstrung the police force after a controversial 2010 SWAT raid drew national outrage, Parry claims.
 
"Insiders say the marching orders were clear," he writes. "Take no action that might potentially embarrass the police chief or city manager."
 
These "marching orders" may be the "smoking gun" behind Boone County Sheriff Dwayne Carey's unprecedented public tug-of-war with Burton over the need for so-called "proactive, community policing."
 
Ironically, Burton has championed just such an approach.  Two years ago, for instance, he organized a training program for "bias-free, respectful community policing" that emphasized more -- not less -- community engagement.  
 
But today, Parry writes, disengagement -- and spiking crime -- have become the norm.  A "culture of avoiding controversy at all costs" has evolved at the department that "may have led to an increase in more blatant crime."
 
Columbia cops serve 80% fewer warrants to search for weapons, drugs, and other crime paraphernalia than they did just a few years ago, he notes.  
 
In 2010, officers served 70 warrants, ordered by judges for probable cause.  In 2012, the number fell to 14 warrants.

Though these numbers are publicly available, Parry claims to get his information about the CYA marching orders from "law enforcement insiders."  

If anyone has inside-the-establishment contacts, it's Parry

A former radio talk show host who founded the Columbia Business Times in 1994, Parry was named Columbia's Outstanding Citizen by the Chamber of Commerce.  As a Boone Hospital trustee, he sat beside Mayor Bob McDavid -- then also a trustee -- to negotiate a new lease with BJC.
 
Insider contacts tell Parry "our ability to address this spike in criminal activity has been impeded by a significant cultural shift" at the police department prompted by those CYA marching orders after the SWAT raid.
 
In February 2010, police officers under Burton's command burst into the home of a suspected marijuana dealer and shot his dog.   Other missteps followed, including the Fano police dog fiasco and the related Officer Rob Sanders/inmate Ken Baker body blow, caught on a police surveillance camera.
 
Labeled as "excessive force," the incident cost Sanders his job.

Parry is not alone in his condemnation of CPD's leadership culture.  A consultant city manager Mike Matthes hired to study the police department last year issued a report that prompted Matthes to grade the police with a "D." 

The report, Matthes said, was a "wake up call for the department’s senior staff."   It found plummeting community satisfaction; low department morale; and a "supervisory culture approaching toxicity."   Burton took responsibility for everything, which led to calls from his own staff that Matthes fire him. 
 
Hired in early 2009, Burton was a social, cordial, and publicly-available advocate for community engagement and forceful yet respectful policing.    

But with each new controversy, he has receded a little more from public view.   Meanwhile, the vision Burton articulated so well just a few years ago has gradually disappeared, behind the cloistered walls he had come from a little town in Texas to help us tear down. 

RELATED:  Parry editorial on pages 88-89
 
 
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