Police chief candidates discuss their readiness to serve in Columbia

Saturday, January 31, 2009 | 9:08 p.m. CST; updated 10:12 p.m. CST, Saturday, January 31, 2009

COLUMBIA — The two finalists for Columbia police chief, Kansas City Police Major Christine Laughlin and Police Chief Kenneth Burton of Haltom City, Texas,  plan on getting more familiar with the community they might begin to serve in the coming weeks.

Burton, who visited Columbia for the first time in January for an early round of interviews, said he was "99 percent sure" he would be named a finalist for the position. He and his wife Linda were in Columbia over the weekend looking at houses. 

"I didn't want to count my chickens before they hatched, but I was confident enough to plan a trip through the weekend to look at real estate with my wife," Burton said.

Laughlin said she is very familiar with Columbia — her parents own a 50-acre ranch outside of Ashland.

"I have been in Columbia every weekend for the last 10 years," Laughlin said. 

Laughlin's experience within Missouri would be considered, but not necessarily give her an advantage over Burton, City Manager Bill Watkins said.

The finalists were narrowed from four after Watkins met with members of the citizen-staffed Police Chief Advisory Committee in a closed meeting at the Daniel Boone City Building on Friday.

Although all four candidates each had unique strengths and were qualified to become police chief, Laughlin, 50, and Burton, 53, were better-suited to work with the Police Department and community, Watkins said.  

“Based on their interviews and the public feedback we received, we believe Laughlin and Burton are better fits for the community,” Watkins said.

At Friday’s meeting, Watkins talked with the citizen advisory committee about the two finalists' credentials and answered questions about their backgrounds. There was a consensus among committee members that Burton and Laughlin would be the best-suited for the job, even though the committee didn’t take a vote, Watkins said.

Over the next few weeks, the two finalists will travel to Columbia to be given a more in-depth interview, and talk with members of the Police Department, including Interim Police Chief Tom Dresner as well as various community organizations, before a police chief is finally chosen, Watkins said. He would not give a timeline or deadline for his decision.  

Both candidates said they would accept the job if they were offered the position.   

Laughlin has worked in the Kansas City Police Department since 1983 and as major since 2004. In her current position as major, she oversees several departments, including a patrol division that serves an area of Kansas City with a high crime rate, and says her experience has prepared her for a possible job as police chief.

“This would be a great opportunity for me to work with the citizens and the officers to make Columbia an even better community,” Laughlin said.

Burton has worked for several police departments in Texas since 1977. He has served as Haltom City police chief since 2003. Although Haltom City is about half the size of Columbia, Burton says his work in Arlington, which has a population of more than 300,000, and College Station, home of Texas A&M University, has prepared him for work in a large college town.

“This would be a good move for me career-wise. I want to be a major-city police chief, and Columbia fits that bill,” Burton said.

The new police chief will be replacing former Police Chief Randy Boehm, who retired in July after serving nearly 32 years in the Columbia Police Department.


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Charles Dudley Jr February 1, 2009 | 4:01 a.m.

Here is an interesting story on the candidate from Texas:

Thank you Traci for sending this out over the local Yahoo! Group.

(Report Comment)
Ray Shapiro February 1, 2009 | 2:29 p.m.

Haltom City police chief a finalist for Missouri post

HALTOM CITY -- The Haltom City police chief who had been the focus of an investigation in 2007 on an abuse of official capacity complaint is one of five finalists for a similar job in Columbia, Mo., Columbia city officials said Thursday.

Police Chief Ken Burton was named Wednesday as a finalist after being chosen by a citizens committee and a Georgia consulting firm.

It is the second time since 2007 that Burton has been a finalist for a police chief’s position elsewhere. He was one of three finalists for the job in Waco in December 2007.

Along with Burton, city officials also named as finalists Saluda, S.C., Police Chief Michael Clancey; Kansas City Police Maj. Christine Laughlin; Blue Springs, Mo., Police Chief Wayne McCoy; and former Terrell, Texas, Police Chief Todd Miller.

Burton could not be reached Thursday for comment.

In September 2007, a Tarrant County grand jury declined to indict Burton on a complaint of abuse of official capacity in connection with Police Officer James Hailey’s purchase of a police package motorcycle that Hailey subsequently said was for personal use.

In April 2004, Burton provided a signed letter to a Harley-Davidson motorcycle dealer in Paris, Texas, vouching that Hailey would use a police package motorcycle only for official duties. The dealer requires a signed letter from a chief before selling the motorcycles to police officers.

Burton has been police chief in Haltom City since February 2003.

Burton started working for the Dallas Police Department in 1977, but he left police work for about five years to oversee security at stores. In 1985, he joined the Arlington Police Department, where he rose to deputy chief. He was named Bryan, Texas, police chief in 2001.

DOMINGO RAMIREZ JR., 817-685-3822

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Ray Shapiro February 1, 2009 | 2:51 p.m.

...The final candidate is Major Christine Laughlin of Kansas City, Missouri. Although she hasn't been a police chief, she says her experience as a division commander in Kansas City puts her in charge of every aspect of her station. Laughlin says the population and staff number she oversees is similar to Columbia, but the crime rate is double in what she describes as one of the most economically challenged areas in the city. She says the police department itself cannot reduce crime.

"You cannot arrest your way out of crime, you cannot jail your way out of crime. It has to be the entire criminal justice system, supported by all the citizens in order to address that situation."

Laughlin says she knew early on she wanted to be a police chief. She says the size of Columbia is ideal, as it would allow close contact with officers.


(Report Comment)
Ray Shapiro February 2, 2009 | 1:22 p.m.

An article which mentions the Major back when she was "just" a Captain...

Kansas City Police Chief Rick Easley said Tuesday he planned to form a new homicide squad to determine whether vital evidence is missing in any of the city's 858 unsolved homicides dating back to 1976.
Besides looking for missing evidence, Easley said, the six-detective squad will try to solve old cases. The cold-case squad of experienced homicide detectives will start working in mid-December and will last indefinitely. Tuesday's announcement came after an internal audit completed last month showed that police had lost or mistakenly destroyed property or evidence in eight homicide cases. Easley presented the plan to a Board of Police Commissioners meeting, and the board members supported the decision.
"We believe the proper procedures to protect evidence are in effect," said Phil LeVota, an assistant Jackson County prosecutor who tries homicide cases. "But if there is missing evidence in any of our cases, action by the police to identify it as soon as possible is a good thing."
The internal audit included six recommendations to improve handling of property and evidence. Capt. Christine Laughlin, who supervised the audit, told board members all of the recommendations had been implemented or addressed.
Laughlin said the changes would "significantly diminish" the chance that property or evidence would be mishandled in the future. "I'm not going to say it's never going to happen again," she said. "We're dealing with humans."
Laughlin said that other departments use bar code systems and that the department should have that capability when a new computer system is implemented in about 18 months.
Because the earlier audit looked only at cases with identified suspects, police officials are still unsure of the scope of lost or destroyed evidence. Easley said that's why an additional inquiry was needed into the 858 unsolved homicides.
"Issues have been raised," he said. "What we're doing is just the right thing to do. ... We're going to be open-minded." J.T. Brown of Move Up, an anti-crime community group, praised the Police Department's plan to delve more deeply into homicide cases. "The chief is headed in the right direction," said Brown, the executive director of the group.
Mayor Kay Barnes, a member of the police board, said she had a great deal of confidence in Easley and his command staff. "I think they're doing the right thing, and when this task is completed, it's going to take us a long way," she said. The Police Department should receive credit for taking responsibility for its previous problems with evidence, Barnes said.
Copyright 2002 The Kansas City Star Co., Kansas City Star -

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Ray Shapiro February 14, 2009 | 3:21 p.m.

Report: Watkins expects to offer CPD chief job next week
By Joe Meyer, (Tribune)

February 13, 2009

In a report to the Columbia City Council, City Manager Bill Watkins said he expects to offer the police chief job sometime next week to either Haltom City, Texas, Police Chief Ken Burton or Kansas City Maj. Christine Laughlin.

Preliminary discussions with the finalists established a potential salary between $120,000 and $140,000, according to the report. Both candidates have asked if they could opt out of the police department's pension policy. From the report:

Both finalists have indicated a strong interest in doing something different, but cost equivalent to our pension system. A good example would be contributing what the City would have paid into the police pension, into a deferred comp plan or IRA.
The City Council would need to amend city ordinance in order to exempt the chief from the pension policy, which Watkins wants to discuss with council members before making an offer.
landmine says...
I hope this town has the sense enough to hire our first woman Chief of Police!

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