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.
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!