Did Dirty Dresner Damage the CPD?

There were some interesting comments made on my last blog post regarding the Tom “Dirty” Dresner affair and its implications for the Columbia Police Department. On one side of the argument we have the folks who think that the sex lives of public officials are, under all circumstances, a private matter. On the other side we have the folks who, like me, believe that the sex lives of public officials are, under some circumstances, a decidedly public matter. The Dresner affair is a public matter because his actions have placed the public at risk by creating a systemic problem in the command structure of the CPD.

One might ask how a single sleazy sexual affair between the Duputy Chief and a subordinate officer could shake an entire department to its core, so allow me to explain.

Any system that is large enough to require some sort of hierarchical structure eventually relies on that structure to remain viable. In business we know that once a manager’s integrity is compromised it is difficult for him/her to garner the respect of his/her employees. Although Chief Burton claims that the affair was a secret until just a few days ago, common sense tells us that a long-term affair between two police officers was surely not a complete secret. If the affair was discovered by any officer under the command of Dresner, Dresner’s ability to command was compromised.

Rick Gurley made an interesting observation on the subject in his comment following my last blog. He questioned the likelihood of a secret affair taking place right under the nose of the chief, a career law enforcement officer who spent quite a bit of time as a detective trained to notice details and draw conclusions. But the chief isn’t the only detective on the force, right? It’s a police force made up of people trained to do the very same things. How likely is it that a 7-year affair went undetected by the entire force? Not very, I say.

If any employee possesses career-ending information about their superior, it becomes impossible for that superior to honestly review or reprimand the employee. Suffice it to say that if you’ve got some dirt on your boss, you’re in a pretty powerful position. Imagine the officer that inevitably discovers the affair and decides to keep that information secret. Now imagine that officer up for review. Can you imagine Tom Dresner daring to give anything other than glowing marks for that officer? Now imagine that officer being investigated for some sort of misconduct. Maybe that officer shot a couple of dogs in front of a 7-year-old child during a botched drug raid. Maybe that officer took a couple of extra swings with a baton while apprehending a suspect. All that officer would need to do is give a knowing wink to old Tom “Dirty” Dresner and the clout of the second most powerful officer on the entire force would be in the officer’s corner.

Dresner’s inability to keep his pants on has damaged the structural integrity of the entire police force and calls into question every command decision in which Dresner’s opinion or testimony played a part. The situation even calls into question every criminal case in which Dresner was called to testify or in which he played an active role. The knowledge of this illicit affair surely crossed the thin blue line, right?

Heck, this situation may even call for Chris Koster to send an independent team of investigators from Jeff City to look into the systemic problems of CPD on behalf of the citizens of Columbia. It seems like the CPD has done one stupid thing after another for the last several years. Maybe the compromised integrity of the Interim Chief and Deputy Chief, Tom “Dirty Dresner” had a little something to do with it.

Stay tuned!

p.s.  Thanks to the good folks at Americans for Forfeiture Reform for the call all the way from Santa Rosa, CA that inspired this post!


13 thoughts on “Did Dirty Dresner Damage the CPD?

  1. Mark Haim

    Mark, I have to admit that I’m a bit troubled by the tone of your piece. And I have to say that don’t find your conclusions follow logically from your assertions.

    First of all, on tone, sex is not dirty, and calling him “Tom ‘Dirty’ Dresner” seems uncalled for. So does calling his affair “sleazy.” This seems unduly harsh and judgmental.

    I agree with many who’ve said there is a real problem when a superior in a hierarchical organization becomes entangled in a lover relationship with a subordinate, as there is an inherent inequality of power in the relationship. Good reason not to get involved this way.

    Likewise, if either or both parties were married or in primary relationships and were not open about this affair, this is a breach of trust. This said, it’s a personal matter and quite common in our culture and around the world.

    I don’t see, however, that the fact that two members of the CPD engaging in such a relationship means that their colleagues knew about it. You offer no evidence that they did, only speculation.

    It is this assertion, however, upon which you pin you claim that a whole variety of actions taken by members of the CPD were likely affected. You go so far as to say that Dresner’s affair “damaged the structural integrity of the entire police force.” This is a pretty huge leap, in my mind.

    While I have my issues with the CPD, I really don’t think Dresner’s affair has much at all to do with any of my concerns. I’d suggest sticking to the known facts about overreach by the cops, and lay off Tom. He’s made his bed and he’s now living with the consequences.

    1. mark

      Yes, M.H., sex by definition is neither dirty nor sleazy, but a clandestine seven-year extramarital sexual affair is both “dirty” and “sleazy.” This affair did not happen in a vacuum. It’s not the “sex” that made this situation dirty and sleazy. The deception, betrayal, and abuse of power took care of that. The actions of Dresner and his subordinate mistress, common though they may be, set the tone for this story.

    2. Rick Gurley


      Perhaps Mr. Flakne is being a little “harsh”? But even if he is, it is his right to use whatever language he chooses to use in describing how he feels about this ordeal.

      Try to realize something here. Many people, including myself had a tremendous amount of respect for Mr. Dresner. I mean out of all of the people employed at the CPD, Mr. Dresner was the one person that I honestly thought was beyond reproach, a good Police Officer, a good person, and a true example of what a Police Officer should be. Initially when I read about this, I felt like crying. I mean I really did! I felt almost personally betrayed. Now, I don’t think that this one episode should undo all of the good things that Mr. Dresner has done; but God how I wish he would have used better judgment than this. I think that we should not forget all of the good work he has done either.

      That feeling of being “let down” that I described, I am sure was felt by more than just me. I think that Mr. Flakne may feel some of that disappointment too.

      Now onto Chief Burton. Chief Burton is a career Law Enforcement Officer. Almost all of his adult life he has had to develop, refine, and constantly practice and use his instincts to solve cases. He was a detective, trained to observe and notice, draw logical and intelligent conclusions, and from doing these things find and know things that the ordinary man would not even notice. A look, a stare, body language, the way people communicate, a closeness or a distance between two people, how much attention one person is paying to another and how much attention that same person normally pays to other people, tone, volume, inflection, patterns of behavior; these are all things that Chief Burton has made his career on observing and noticing. It is more unreasonable to believe that he did NOT notice something out of the ordinary with Mr. Dresner as closely as he worked with him. I can tell you this; I own a Private Investigation Company; and I notice all of these things. After a while it becomes second nature. You take it home with you. You sometimes find yourself even making these observations on your significant other. Chief Burton has triple the experience as me at making these observations; and I can guarantee you that if two of my employees were having an affair, and they sat in the same room with me for just 15 minutes I’d know it!

      Couple Chief Burton’s skill at detection with the fact that he is in an executive management position, and has been in such positions as this for quite a while now where he makes a living from knowing what makes his employees “tick” and how to motivate them; and it becomes even more unreasonable to believe that he did not at least have a hint that there was an affair going on than it does to believe that he DID know that something was a little “off kilter” and needed further looking into.

      I am not buying it for a minute that Chief Burton did not have an idea that something was going on that deserved his attention.

      And this is not a “private matter”. There is nothing private about two people having an affair on the citizens of Columbia’s tax dollars. Now if Mr. Dresner and the female that he was or is having an affair with were working at McDonalds, then it would be private. But they were working for US! They are accountable to US! There is nothing private in the PUBLIC Sector! You don’t tell your boss that what you are doing on his time is none of his business, do you? Well, guess who is REALLY the boss at the CPD? WE ARE! Collectively as a community of tax paying citizens that pay the salaries of the CPD employees, we are their BOSS! They are employed by a branch of government that is for the people and by the people! That means we have a right to know what is going on in all branches of our government!

      Now about the female. Was Mr. Dresner raping her? Was she not a willing participant in this affair? Did she not know that he was one of her Commanding Officers? Did she not know that he was married? And if she knew all of this, then does she not share some responsibility here? You know, if your buddy came to your house and told you that he had just stolen your neighbor’s lawn mower, and you helped him load it on a trailer to take home, you would be charged with aiding and abetting a theft! The same standard should be applied to this female Police Officer. Whatever damage has been done to the CPD, she aided and abetted in it happening! Her conduct was completely unprofessional.

      So, perhaps you need to re-evaluate your position on this issue?

      Rick Gurley,

  2. Eapen Thampy

    It is clear to me that Tom ‘Dog-shooting’ Dresner repeatedly compromised both his family and his integrity when he made the choice to initiate an affair with his subordinate. His integrity is a core part of his job; he represents the overwhelming power of the state and is an integral part of the emergence of paramilitary policing in Columbia. We don’t have to have evidence when we can correctly describe the incentive structures at work here. Moreover, since the police routinely destroy evidence incriminating themselves, it becomes impossible for citizens to seek redress of their grievances from their government.

    We need a special prosecutor here. We need to reassert civilian and democratic control of law enforcement.

  3. Groucho K. Marx

    Regardless of all that’s said regarding this and other police inproprieties- police- by the very nature and description of their jobs to UPHOLD the law- SHOULD be held to a higher standard of behavior than the general public.

    The same might be said as well of politicans- but like cops- they’re also of the mind-set “don’t do as I do- do as I say.”

    Good job Mark and don’t get burned by the fire you set those people’s feet to… 😉


    1. mark

      Thanks. I’m more than a little concerned about reprisals, but I’m hoping there are cops who agree with me. If I were a cop on the CPD, I’d be angry as hell with both Dresner and his cop mistress.

    1. mark

      It’s rather well known who the other officer is, but I’ve seen no hard evidence nor have I met a person “in the know” who is willing to go on record with the identity of Dresner’s subordinate cop mistress. I’m certainly not going to name names without hard evidence and good reason. If the mistress was shown favoritism because of her bedroom antics, her identity might be of public interest. If that is the case, there is surely more than one officer with an axe to grind after being passed over for promotion in favor of the concubine.

  4. Gerhardt

    Someone speculated that it was one of the public information officers. If that’s the case I don’t see a big deal. Still, of the two I’m curious.

    1. mark

      IF the mistress IS a PIO…

      How much does a PIO get paid? Is it a higher pay grade than a regular officer? What are the other benefits that go along with being a PIO? Were there other officers who applied for the PIO position and were passed over in favor of the mistress? Does a PIO receive raises based on reviews performed or influenced by the Interim Chief or Deputy Chief?

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