City manager, police chief announce gloomy findings of department review

Tuesday, March 6, 2012 | 11:32 a.m. CST; updated 5:54 p.m. CST, Tuesday, March 6, 2012
People attending the press conference listen to City Manager Mike Matthes and Columbia Police Chief Ken Burton on Tuesday morning at the Daniel Boone City Building. Matthes conducted the press conference to discuss recommendations and criticisms made in a report from Eric A. Anderson Associates.


That's how an independent consultant's report characterized the state of the Columbia Police Department. 


Related Media

Related Articles

City Manager Mike Matthes and Columbia Police Chief Ken Burton spoke at a news conference Tuesday morning at City Hall to address the findings of an independent review of the Police Department. 

They also discussed what changes would be implemented within the department as a result of several serious issues raised in the report, which was written by Eric Anderson Associates after a three-month review of the department. That review included 130 interviews with the department's sworn officers and civilian employees and with members of the City Council, the Citizens Police Review Board and the public.

Matthes quoted from the report: "Officer morale is regularly identified as having gotten worse. The supervisory culture is approaching toxicity. Internal communication is confused and inadequate."

Matthes called the report "a wake-up call to the senior leadership of the police department."

He said Anderson's findings represented the sum total of years of increasing public dissatisfaction with the Police Department. Matthes said community satisfaction had slumped from 81 percent in 2005 to 69 percent when the review was conducted.

"In a real sense, the community has lowered the report card of the Police Department from a B to a D over six years," Matthes said.

Matthes said "a number of high-profile failures," combined with poor communication from leadership, were the root of the problem. 

The report lists 12 findings that highlight ongoing problems within the department:

  • Morale is "extraordinarily low." Most officers are uncertain and hesitant. They fear the lack of clear direction might cause them to over- or under-react to situations, which might result in injury or death to themselves or citizens.
  • The department is marred by general confusion in its supervisory direction and goals. It lacks uniform purpose, mission and values. Communication lines are frayed between officers and senior staff, which results in incomplete or inconsistent direction.
  • Sergeants and officers believe it's unfair that pay compression has only been addressed for ranks above sergeant.
  • Officers feel qualifications for promotion do not accurately correspond to on-the-job performance.
  • Department facilities are inadequate to foster communication and cooperation between leadership and officers.
  • Training meets only the minimum state requirements, creating gaps in officers' preparedness on the job.
  • Disciplinary procedures are felt to be arbitrary.

Although many of the problems listed in the report were first cited in a 2006 review conducted under former Police Chief Randy Boehm, Burton took full responsibility for the failings in his department. 

"As chief of police, I own it," Burton said during the news conference.

Still, Burton said that morale is "a function of the entire command staff" and that he would rely heavily on those around him to create a better work environment. He said the report confirmed what he had suspected for the past few years: that he had not had 100 percent cooperation from his senior staff.

The report offered 14 recommendations for making improvements in the department. They include:

  • Initiate a thorough review of the police chief and his senior command staff to determine their ability to lead and resolve the aforementioned problems. While Matthes did not suggest that any immediate personnel changes were being considered, he did say, "Everyone in the senior leadership will be reviewed by me."
  • Communicate more clearly strategic purpose and values within the department to all staff.
  • Build a new police headquarters "that, through its architecture, encourages communication between and among the ranks."
  • Finish codifying the general rules, orders and policies of the department, a process that began three years ago.
  • Increase training requirements. The report says that 48 percent of the department's officers have fewer than five years of experience and that older officers are at risk of diminishing skills.
  • Address pay compression for all staff as soon as possible and establish a clear promotional system that is based on merit.
  • Create a fair and impersonal internal justice system for dealing with complaints and allegations regarding violations of policy. The city manager would oversee that system.
  • Create a system of joint patrol/citizen committees to foster dialogue between the department and vulnerable minority and low-income populations.

Matthes said he intends to develop "a road map" over the coming months to implement all 14 recommendations in the report. Funding, however, could be an issue when it comes to increasing salaries or paying for a new headquarters.

Burton said that personally he is taking this opportunity to make a renewed commitment to citizens and to the police officers working in his ranks. He said he hopes to eventually make the Columbia Police Department a model for others.

The city paid $45,000 for the report.

Like what you see here? Become a member.

Show Me the Errors (What's this?)

Report corrections or additions here. Leave comments below here.

You must be logged in to participate in the Show Me the Errors contest.


mike mentor March 6, 2012 | 11:58 a.m.

Again, I have to give Burton credit. He is taking responsibility for what is going on under his watch even if many of the issues are inherited. I think our attorney general could learn a few things from our lil 'ol chief right here in CoMo...

(Report Comment)
Richard Saunders March 6, 2012 | 3:58 p.m.

OMG!!! Look at all of those gloomy people.

Of course, they'd rather have had the $45k in their budget than be subjected to yet another consultant manufactured consensus.

I'm beginning to believe the sole role of the City is find the best consultants to run the place, as no one in charge wants to be liable.

(Report Comment)
Ed Lane March 7, 2012 | 10:34 a.m.

Kinda of a waste of $45,000, when apparently all involved knew what the problem was, leadership!!!!!!!!!!!

(Report Comment)
Ray Shapiro March 7, 2012 | 11:29 a.m.

Considering that our new city manager was not the city manager who hired Chief Burton, that our new city manager was an intern with the consultant hired to do the write up and that the "police union" endorsed our newest mayor, the $45,000 "give back" was probably money well spent.
I hope Chief Burton is allowed to continue working on getting our police department accredited with the following organization so that these kind of external write ups can be seen as a check-in point of a work in progress.
("The Law Enforcement Accreditation Program was the first credentialing program established by CALEA after its founding. It was originally developed to address what was seen as a need to enhance law enforcement as a profession and to improve law enforcement service delivery. That mission continues today through a tiered law enforcement accreditation program. Participating agencies may enroll in either CALEA Law Enforcement Accreditation or CALEA Advanced Law Enforcement Accreditation, without regard to agency size.")
CPD has never achieved accreditation from this group. Considering that we've had many chiefs over the years, I wonder when our city council will give our chief the resources to make this happen.

(Report Comment)
Michael Williams March 7, 2012 | 11:40 a.m.

I'm a huge supporter of CPD and the Boone County sheriff's dept, but what follows is a discussion of managers-in-general and not support for anyone.

In business, managers should set goals, make the rules, set the tone, and make about 2-3 REALLY important decisions per year. They are not expected to "know everything" nor should they think they do. They should recognize the things they are really good at (mainly public and personnel relations) and the things they are not good at. In setting goals, they should search for like-minded subordinates who will support, and not work against, those goals. This latter statement is not meant to say managers should hire "yesmen/ladies". Not at all. But those hires should 'support' the overall goals; if they don't, they are a hindrance and should be dismissed or not hired. Once goals, rules, tone, and subordinates are set, the good manager sits back and gives everyone the opportunity to find their own ways and strategies to reach those long as their strategies are not illegal, immoral, or unethical.

Our public entities are mainly different. Because of various "rules" about hiring/firing, new managers are forced to choose from within the group rather than from outside. They are accountable to the public, catching it from both sides. In business, managers can fire employees who create problems or are not on board. In the public, managers have to put up with it.

Perhaps we should have a discussion about the two differing management strategies. Should they really be all that different?

(Report Comment)

Leave a comment

Speak up and join the conversation! Make sure to follow the guidelines outlined below and register with our site. You must be logged in to comment. (Our full comment policy is here.)

  • Don't use obscene, profane or vulgar language.
  • Don't use language that makes personal attacks on fellow commenters or discriminates based on race, religion, gender or ethnicity.
  • Use your real first and last name when registering on the website. It will be published with every comment. (Read why we ask for that here.)
  • Don’t solicit or promote businesses.

We are not able to monitor every comment that comes through. If you see something objectionable, please click the "Report comment" link.

You must be logged in to comment.

Forget your password?

Don't have an account? Register here.