COLUMBIA— Police Chief Ken Burton is facing backlash from the Columbia Police Officers’ Association after selling the police dog Fano for $1 last week.
Columbia Police announced Wednesday it sold Fano to the Clarence Police Department due to the high cost of boarding him.
A news release from the Police Officers' Association said selling the dog at such a low price “demonstrates the continued fiscal irresponsibility and misinformed decision making surrounding Fano.”
In 2011, Rob Sanders, a Columbia police officer who was fired in September 2011 for use of excessive force against a prisoner in a holding cell, tried to buy Fano, the dog he handled. The City Council denied his request citing Fano’s future as a police dog and liability issues connected to the dog's aggressive behavior.
A group of Sanders' supporters that came together on Facebook as Canine Fano raised more than $10,000 to purchase Fano for Sanders. Members of the Facebook group could not be reached about what happened to the funds after its offer was denied.
The Columbia Police Officers’ Association said in a news release that the police department should have accepted the $10,000 offer and bought a new dog to be trained for police work.
Fano was boarded in Cape Girardeau, Mo., for a year and a half before being sold to the Clarence Police Department. The 17 months of boarding cost the City of Columbia about $8,000, according to the Police Officers’ Association.
The Columbia Police Department did not train another officer to work with Fano due to staffing shortages, according to a news release.
A statement released by Canine Fano said the group was “displeased and disheartened” by the decision to sell Fano.
“This action further affirms our belief Chief Burton and (City Manager) Mike Matthes have a personal vendetta against the Sanders family in not allowing them to purchase Fano when a 5-figure offer has never left the table,” the statement said.
Dale Roberts, the executive director of the Columbia Police Officers’ Association, said the association was not part of the decision-making process.
“If there have been any consultation process, I think CPOA might have had some input that there would be a better way to put those resources,” Roberts said. “But they were never given that opportunity. The city made the decision, and it's done.”
He said for now the association is not planning to take further action against Burton.
Chief Burton could not be reached for comment.