Columbia Fraternal Order of Police calling for removal of Chief Ken Burton

Wednesday, April 25, 2012 | 9:59 p.m. CDT; updated 2:28 p.m. CDT, Thursday, April 26, 2012

COLUMBIA — The Columbia Fraternal Order of Police called for the removal of Columbia Police Chief Ken Burton on Wednesday, alleging "numerous policy and city ordinance violations," several of which stem from Burton's handling of incidents such as the 2011 firing of patrol officer Rob Sanders.

The local police organization addressed a letter to Mayor Bob McDavid and City Manager Mike Matthes asking that Burton be relieved of his command. The letter was accompanied by a 349-page complaint that detailed grievances and the alleged violations. 


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The complaints against Burton allege problems with his command including issues of negativity, incompetence and the mishandling of internal investigations.

The "tipping point" was a recent radio appearance by Burton during "The Gary Nolan Show" on KSSZ/93.9 FM in Boonville, said Ashley Cuttle, executive director of the police organization. 

During the program, Burton discussed a recent departmental review by independent consultant Eric Anderson, which found that morale among Burton's officers was "extraordinarily low." During the interview, Burton called members of his command staff "subversive," according to selective transcripts included in the police group's complaint.

Police department representatives could not be reached by email or telephone.

A portion of the complaint addresses the dissatisfaction among some police officers with the handling of the Sanders issue.

Sanders, an 18-year veteran of the Columbia Police Department, was fired in September after video surveillance of a cell prompted an internal affairs investigation that found Sanders' use of excessive force against a man in a holding cell to be in violation of city policies related to the treatment of prisoners.

Burton also refers to the use of force by Rob Sanders an “assault,” which became the source of one complaint.  

According to the document, “Rob Sanders has not been convicted of any criminal law violation or even charged with such.  We feel it is inappropriate for Chief Burton to make such statements related to Rob Sanders, considering no action has been taken by any Prosecutor’s Office in relation to the alleged crime that Chief Burton claims has occurred.” 

The complaint continues, “As the Chief of Police, Chief Burton should not be making statements of guilt in relation to any criminal act until the issue is resolved through the proper channels."

An internal investigation cleared Sanders of all wrongdoing days before he was fired.

"Rob Sanders has not been convicted of any criminal law violation or even charged with such," the complaint states.

"We feel it is inappropriate for Chief Burton to make such statements related to Rob Sanders, considering no action has been taken by any Prosecutor's Office in relation to the alleged crime that Chief Burton claims has occurred." 

Cuttle said the Sanders' incident was just one issue in a list of criticisms of the chief. 

The organization met with Burton numerous times to discuss problems within the department, but "they continued to be ignored," Cuttle said. "We just don't think this is something we can fix."  

She said about 140 of Columbia's 160 police officers are members of the Columbia Fraternal Order of Police. The organization's board of directors voted unanimously to call for Burton's removal, Cuttle said.

Burton was named police chief in February 2009. He previously served as chief of the Haltom City (Texas) Police Department.

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Shawna Sheeba April 26, 2012 | 1:41 a.m.

Ashley Cuttle needs to go back to law school, because she is so off base for her pathetic opinion, it makes me wonder if she even learned anything there. Chief Burton had every single right to fire Rob Sanders. Internal Investigations arent his boss, Chief Burton is. And even if Rob Sanders was found "innocent" by II, in the end, its still his boss's right to get rid of him.
And the FOP....yeah, all of Sanders' buddies, whom he worked with for almost two decades. Of course they are gonna rally behind the guy. They are all buddy-ole-pals, bbqs, going to six flags, wives are all chummy, etc. Its sickening that OUR POLICE DEPARTMENT would rather have a dirty cop with an "Im short" attitude on our streets than have good, decent, level-headed, citizen-oriented, "straight-and-narrow" police officers on the streets. Amy and Rob Sanders need to get over it. I know, it sucks to have your early retirement blown by a bad reaction in the heat of the moment, but Rob Sanders cost the city (and that means US) a lot of money. He should have thought about his 18 year career, no, better yet, his little two year time frame he had left before his pension would have kicked in BEFORE he fractured two vertebrae and split the wig of a man with PEPPER SPRAY in his eyes for 15 minutes. Thats cruel and unusual punishment, if you ask me.
Thats all this is about, ladies and gents...this is all over Rob Sanders not getting his pension, and his boys dont think its fair.
Get over it. He lost his cool, so he lost his tenure.

(Report Comment)
Shawna Sheeba April 26, 2012 | 1:44 a.m.

And lets not forget, ladies and gentlemen, that Rob Sanders had been investigated before for harassing citizens. Talk to Matt Akins. He will tell you all about it.
Citizens for Justice. Google it, and you will see that Matt was unnecessarily harassed because he films CPD in action.

His attitude stinks, and he needed to be taken down a notch or 10.

(Report Comment)
Cecil Caulkins April 26, 2012 | 6:43 a.m.

Shawna, you can make your comments sound more intelligent and informed if you remember to use apostrophes in contractions: Like "aren't" and "it's" (for it is) and "I'm" and "That's" and "don't" and "let's." Too much texting can lead to a loss of part of our basic English grammar skills.

(Report Comment)
mike mentor April 26, 2012 | 8:58 a.m.

Sounds like we need at least a few more officers fired. Part of the entitlement mentality so pervasive these days. I need to be convicted of a crime before I get fired. Give me a break.

If the officers are upset about Sanders losing his pension, they should be mad at the union parasites that let them go to work with such a bad contract. I don't know his 20 year record, so I don't want to make a judgement about his pension in this case. Hypothetically speaking, if he had a good record for 20 years, losing his pension for this might be harsh. But, if that is what the contracts say, then that is the fault of the union. Maybe some of the union parasites who have been skimming the wages of the real workers and are responsible for the contract can pitch in some of theirs to help the family out...

(Report Comment)
John Schultz April 26, 2012 | 9:53 a.m.

Speaking of Rob Sanders, my recollection was that there was a special prosecutor (maybe from Howard County?) looking into his actions in the holding cell. Did that special prosecutor ever reach a decision to file charges or not? I certainly hope charges are filed since us common folk would be in jail if we did what was captured on video.

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