Deputy police chief's resignation prompted by affair with subordinate

Thursday, December 9, 2010 | 6:29 p.m. CST; updated 7:00 p.m. CST, Thursday, December 9, 2010

COLUMBIA – An affair with a subordinate prompted Columbia Deputy Police Chief Tom Dresner's retirement announcement this week, Police Chief Ken Burton said.

Dresner told the police chief last Friday about the affair with a female officer and offered to retire, Burton said.


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"It had come to the point where people were starting to find out about it," Burton said. "Out of respect to me, he decided to tell me about it before it became public."

After telling Dresner he needed some time to digest it, Burton met with Dresner on Saturday and told him he thought it would be best if Dresner retired.

On Tuesday, Dresner announced his retirement, saying he planned to seek a job in the private sector, possibly the firearms industry. 

"This situation has been very painful for many people, especially those closest to me," Dresner said via text message Thursday. "I caused that pain, and I am responsible for it. Now I must take these broken pieces and do the best I can with what I have done, to try to make things right."

"I am not going to hide anymore," he said in the message. "My secret is out and I have begun to seek forgiveness and move forward. If anyone needs to place blame, I am your man."

Dresner also thanked Columbia in the message.

"This city has given me so much for these last 26 years," he said. "I am grateful beyond words."

Burton said the subordinate employee is still on staff and will not be disciplined.

"In these kinds of situations, it was the supervisor who's at fault, not the subordinate employee," he said. "It doesn't do any good to put the other person out."

Dresner, 50, began working as a Columbia police officer on Sept. 4, 1984. He worked as a patrol officer and property crimes detective for nine years before being promoted to sergeant and then captain. He was the SWAT team commander from 2000 to 2009, then served as interim police chief for nine months before Burton's arrival.

As interim police chief, he handled a Taser incident in which a man suffered injuries by falling off a bridge after being stunned with Tasers, as well as the “Hickman High School YouTube brawl” from October 2008.

Dresner's last day is Dec. 17. He is working outside the office this week by Burton's request, and he will be on vacation next week.

Burton said the search for a new deputy chief will begin next year. He said he is "fairly confident" he can find a replacement internally but is also leaving open the option of looking externally.

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Justin Ritter December 9, 2010 | 10:39 p.m.

*The Columbia Missourian removed an earlier comment on our website because of questionable content. To see our comment policy, go to

Well, I suppose this isn't going to help my general defense of the CPD any.

I would say Deputy Chief Dresner is doing the honorable thing by retiring, but if there's truth to Mr. Johnson's post above*, it's about seven years too late. It seems he only came forward when it became apparent that he would be caught. While Hollywood would have us believe that the affairs of the heart trump all, I believe that reality dictates that the deception necessary for an extended extra-marital affair makes an adulterer's general sense of integrity suspect. Even IF he was able to completely separate his romance from his official functions in thought and deed, the appearance of impropriety makes him an ineffective leader.

I wish him luck in fixing his life, and Chief Burton wisdom in appointing his replacement.

(Report Comment)
Phil Philbert December 10, 2010 | 12:44 a.m.
This comment has been removed.
Eapen Thampy December 10, 2010 | 6:48 a.m.

This warrants a full-fledged external investigation, if not a special prosecutor. For years, Tom Dresner stymied citizen complaints, particularly regarding the wanton and brutal practices of his dog-shooting SWAT team. Now we find that his integrity has been compromised since he began his affair and that he may have had a host of incentives to cover up improper or illegal behavior, particularly for officers who may have known of his affair.

Good work, City Council and Mr. Mayor. Well done. Perhaps a new host of elected leaders may give Columbia the transparency we deserve regarding our police department. I have 0 faith in our current officials with regards to achieving a just outcome.

(Report Comment)
Eapen Thampy December 10, 2010 | 7:14 a.m.

Tom "Dog-shooting" Dresner's legacy:

(Report Comment)
Eapen Thampy December 10, 2010 | 7:40 a.m.

A CPD officer anonymously issued this press release alleging that Ken Burton improperly handled the Dresner situation:

(Report Comment)
Melissa Tiffany December 10, 2010 | 9:45 a.m.
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Scott Swafford December 10, 2010 | 12:39 p.m.

Two questions, Mr. Thampy, about the "news release" posted above: How are we to know that it comes from a Columbia police officer? And how can it be referred to as a news release when we have no idea where it came from?

(Report Comment)
Paul Allaire December 10, 2010 | 12:44 p.m.

Don't worry. The police are "on top" of this one.

(Report Comment)
Paul Allaire December 10, 2010 | 12:45 p.m.

Look for a comment from their spokesperson.

(or maybe not)

(Report Comment)
Paul Allaire December 10, 2010 | 1:27 p.m.

Mostly because I have yet to hear any straight honest words come from that spokesperson. Go figure.

(Report Comment)
Mike Martin December 10, 2010 | 2:39 p.m.

Old news, and though titillating, unless the implication is that this affair impaired Mr. Dresner's on-the-job judgment in some way, ultimately unimportant.

I tend to think a line or two in a story about why it matters or why it should matter is an important part of journalism. Don't just take on face value the idea that a private mis-step has or had public consequences. Nonetheless, such analysis has been notably absent from reports I've read about this.

Would rather see coverage of the behind-the-scenes skulduggery that actually affects public policy, like the REAL extent of the city's brewing retirement benefits scandal, and who might have been involved in it; the REAL reasons for the Lemone/Maguire Blvd. delays; who's REALLY going to make out when that gargantuan parking garage is completed; and so on.

(Report Comment)
Jill Wieneke December 10, 2010 | 3:20 p.m.

To answer the questions regarding policies in this matter, the City of Columbia has a policy concerning the employment of relatives which can be found in the City Code under Chapter 19:

Section i. employment of relatives
1. It is the general policy of the City to avoid hiring relatives of present employees into permanent positions in the same work unit. No person shall be promoted or transferred to a department when as a result he/she would be working in reasonable proximity to another member of his/her immediate family. Relatives, for the purpose of this section, are defined as the employee's spouse, children, mother, father, sibling(s), mother‑in‑law, father‑in‑law, grandparents, grandchildren, uncles, aunts, nieces, nephews, first cousins, and step‑relatives. Exceptions to this provision may be granted by the Director if recommended by the Department Head.
2.Should two employees in close working proximity decide to marry and one would be supervising the other, one must resign or transfer to another work assignment within sixty (60) days after the date of the wedding. A transfer to a different department, office or division is dependent upon conformity with all other personnel regulations and budgetary limitations.

The Columbia Police Department does not have a policy concerning this matter, outside of what is outlined in the above city code.

Officer Jill Wieneke, Public Information Officer
Columbia Police Department

(Report Comment)
Ricky Gurley December 10, 2010 | 3:24 p.m.
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Paul Allaire December 10, 2010 | 3:31 p.m.

They weren't worth the keystrokes it took her to type them.

(Report Comment)
Mark Flakne December 10, 2010 | 5:14 p.m.

If this truly was a 7-year affair, as rumor suggests, it would be interesting to see what impact Tom “Dirty” Dresner had on the career advancement of his subordinate mistress. What about the career advancement, or lack thereof, of the officer/husband of the mistress? Remember, Dresner was the interim chief for a while, and as deputy chief, certainly had a large part to play in interdepartmental politics.

(Report Comment)

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