"Burned out" with community policing
COLUMBIA, Mo 11/27/18 (Beat Byte) -- Embattled Columbia police chief Ken Burton has been looking for work since July, an unconfirmed letter to a California-based headhunting firm suggests.
City manager Mike Matthes resigned last week, following city finance director Michele Nix, who resigned in September.
"I would like to make formal application for the position of Chief of Police in the City of Denton, Texas," the letter -- signed Kenneth M. Burton and dated July 16, 2018 -- explains. "Throughout my career I have effectively responded to organizational challenges in the eyes of my supervisors, peers, and subordinates, and I enjoy an excellent reputation as a talented and energetic leader."
A redacted copy of Burton's resume is attached to the letter (below), which may have made the media rounds. It bears a "bloximages.townnews" URL, an image-hosting site newspapers and other media organizations often use.
"I was made aware of the letter but have no information on the outcome of the Chief's application nor do I have knowledge of his future intentions," City of Columbia community relations director Steve Sapp -- who is also acting Columbia Police Department spokesperson -- told the Heart Beat.
The letter details Burton's experience in Columbia, including lines about what may be his most controversial project: a nascent community policing initiative that seeks better interaction between law enforcement and citizens, particularly in minority neighborhoods."I have excelled as a change agent as the Columbia Police Department has worked to establish a reputation for excellence and as we adopted a true Community Based Policing philosophy," the letter explains. "I appreciate the varied service needs of a diverse community."
Community policing and a predecessor project, the "community outreach unit" (COU) have been flashpoints for a debate about the need for higher property taxes and Burton's unwillingness to encourage a broad philosophical change many experts believe police departments must adopt for effective community officers.
Tensions about an alleged plan to dismantle or rebrand the COU surfaced at last Monday's City Council meeting, when during a discussion with Mayor Brian Treece, Burton said officers were "getting burned out" with community police duties.
"They wanna go out and do police work," Burton told Treece. Community policing is "one facet of police work...but their police work has dropped off. I'm talking about the things patrol officers do on a daily basis: look for stolen cars; look for people breaking into houses; car break-ins. Every police officer likes doing it."
Burton has been under fire almost since he took office in 2009.
A 2010 SWAT raid that left a family pit bull dead drew widespread protests.
Former high-ranking police officers such as Zim Schwartze and Chris Kelley have sued City Hall for unlawful employment practices. Schwartze won a large settlement from the city for her wrongful termination suit, in which she "alleged that she was fired for statements she made about Police Chief Ken Burton."
Burton's termination of another officer for police brutality -- Rob Sanders -- brought condemnation on both sides of the issue. "The Executive Board for the Missouri Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) unanimously voted to condemn the actions of Columbia Police Chief Kenneth Burton on Wednesday for the wrongful termination of Officer Rob Sanders, among other things," KOMU reported in 2012.
"To a man we found Chief Burton's actions to be reprehensible and for this reason we took the unusual step of formally condemning Chief Burton's actions," FOP President Kevin Ahlbrand said at the time.Racial profiling has dogged Burton for years, as reports have repeatedly emerged pointing the finger at his command. Though he consistently rebuts the allegations his officers are profiling persons of interest on the basis of ethnicity, the charges have continued.Multiple police department surveys have shown dissatisfaction among Burton's officers and staff, including a 2012 report that damned the departments "supervisory culture.""Columbia Police Chief Ken Burton said he takes full responsibility for a report that indicates department employee morale has worsened and that 'the supervisory culture is approaching toxicity,'" the Columbia Tribune reported seven years ago.Despite the controversies, Burton's letter is sanguine.
"I take a cooperative and analytical approach to identifying and addressing the needs of the community I serve," the letter explains. "My caring attitude of service has produced positive and productive working relationships with my employees, other City departments, and key community leaders. Through these relationships, I have earned their confidence and support."