Police chief candidates down to five

Wednesday, January 7, 2009 | 1:01 p.m. CST; updated 4:38 p.m. CST, Thursday, January 8, 2009

COLUMBIA— Five finalists have been chosen for the position of Columbia police chief; none are from within the department.

The candidates are: Police Chief Kenneth M. Burton, Haltom City, Texas; Police Chief Michael J. Clancey, Saluda, S.C.; Police Major Christine L. Laughlin, Kansas City; Police Chief Wayne I. McCoy, Blue Springs.; and Todd A. Miller, most recently police chief at Terrell, Texas.


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The candidates will be in Columbia on Monday and Tuesday for interviews and an introduction to the city. Finalists will tour Columbia and police facilities, meet with police command staff and officers as well as senior city administrators and Columbia residents. Interviews with City Manager Bill Watkins and the citizen committee advising him on the decision are also scheduled.

The public can attend an informal round-table discussion from 6 to 7:30 p.m. Monday  at the Activities and Recreation Center, 1701 W. Ash St.

The media can attend a session from 1:15 to 4:45 p.m. to listen to 30-minute statements and responses from each candidate. The City Channel (Channel 13 on MediaCom; Channel 2 on Charter; and Channel 401 on CenturyTel) will broadcast the session live.

In July, Police Chief Randy Boehm retired from the department after 31 years of service. Capt. Tom Dresner was named interim police chief. Dresner did not apply for chief because Watkins had asked that the person acting as interim chief not be interested in the permanent position. The only internal candidate, Capt. Zim Schwartze, did not make the final cut.

The resumes of the final five candidates aren't light on experience:

Kenneth M. Burton

“I’m ecstatic to be a finalist. Everything is very attractive about Columbia,” Burton said. If chosen, he says he will make no changes in the department right away, but rather first see the attitude in the department and involve the city manager, officials and all stakeholders in changes. Burton has spent eight years as chief, starting new in two different police departments in large cities like Columbia before.

Education: bachelor's degree, law enforcement and police science, Sam Houston State University, Huntsville, Texas, 1977

Related experience

2003-present: Police chief, Haltom City, Texas  (pop. 40,000)

2001-2003: Police chief, Bryan, Texas  (pop. 60,000)

1999-2001: Deputy police chief, Arlington, Texas  (pop. 325,000)

1985-1999: Lieutenant and other positions, Arlington, Texas  (pop. 185,000)

1981-1985: Private sector security management positions

1977-1981: Police officer, Dallas  (pop. 850,000)

Michael J. Clancey

“Communities such as Columbia have so much to offer; a diverse population, a major university, excellent amenities and a great location,” Clancey said. He has been a chief for about 10 years and said he is excited to face the challenges that the city of Columbia has to offer. “I look forward to engaging the police staff, the residents, city government and university as we move forward,” he said.

Education: master's degree, criminal justice, Virginia Commonwealth University, 2001; bachelor's degree, history/political science, American International College, Springfield, Mass., 1977

Related experience

2008-present: Police chief, Saluda, S.C . (pop. 5,000)

2008-2008: Senior program manager, International Association of Chiefs of Police

2005-2008: Police chief, College Station, Texas (pop. 88,000)

1999-2005: Police chief, Westerville, Ohio (pop. 38,000)

1979-1999: Captain and other positions, Alexandria, Va. (pop. 130,000) 

Christine L. Laughlin

If chosen Laughlin would be Columbia’s first female chief of police. “The Columbia Police Department is looking for management and leadership,” Laughlin said. “If it happens to be a female and that’s me, that’s great. It’s not a deciding factor.” Laughlin said the department offers opportunities for positive change, and she hopes to present her ideas and be a part of those changes. 

Education: Law degree, MU, 1987; bachelor's degree, criminal justice, Missouri Western State College, 1982; bachelor's degree, education, Missouri Western State College, 1981

Related experience

2004-present: Major, Kansas City (pop. 445,000)

1996-2004: Captain, Kansas City (pop. 445,000)

1991-1996: Sergeant, Kansas City (pop. 445,000)

1983-1991: Police officer, Kansas City (pop. 445,000)

Wayne I. McCoy

“Columbia is a vibrant city with great potential, and I am indeed excited about the potential for the Columbia Police Department,” McCoy said. He has been a chief for about 17 years and said the new chief has to come in and have an impact. He said he would expand the department’s partnership with the community. 

Education: master's degree, public administration, Ohio State University, 1977; bachelor's degree, sociology and English literature, Capital University, 1974

Related experience

2002-present: Police chief, Blue Springs (pop. 55,000)

1992-2002: Police chief, Worthington, Ohio (pop. 15,000)

1989-1992: Captain, Westerville, Ohio (pop. 30,000)

1974-1989: Lieutenant, sergeant and police officer, Westerville, Ohio (pop. 30,000)

Todd A. Miller

“Community policing is my forte,” Miller said. Partnerships among the police and community along with problem-solving make up his view of policing. Miller said he has been a chief for 32 years. He grew up in the upper Midwest and wants to move back to the region whose people and lifestyle he enjoys. “Columbia is an impressive city,” he said.

Education: master's degree, management, Cardinal Stritch, Milwaukee; bachelor's degree, criminal justice, University of Wisconsin, Platteville, Wis.

Related experience

2002-November 2008: Police chief, Terrell, Texas (pop. 19,000)

1993-2003: Police chief, White Bear Lake, Minn. (pop. 30,000)

1987-1993: Police chief/ambulance director, Willmar, Minn. (pop. 20,000)

1984-1987: Police chief, Broadhead, Wis.  (pop. 6,000)

1983-1984: Assistant police chief, Oskaloosa, Iowa (pop. 15,000)

1980-1983: Police chief, Monona, Iowa (pop. 2,000)

1976-1980: Police chief, McGregor, Iowa (pop. 1,500)


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