Support for Chief Burton


Sign the petition in support of Chief Burton HERE

Anyone who follows the local Columbia media knows that Chief Burton has been under fire as of late. He has never been popular among the old guard, rank and file officers, but lately the local public sector police labor union, the Columbia Police Officers Association (CPOA), a national police labor union, the Fraternal Order of Police, and a group centered around a fired, former CPD Officer, Rob Sanders, and his former police dog Fano have all been on the attack.


Keep Columbia Free publicly endorses Chief Burton’s continued vigilance combating racial bias in his department and wholeheartedly agrees with his decision to fire Rob Sanders.

The proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back and unleashed a firestorm of police union ire was the firing of Rob Sanders. Sanders was fired for using excessive force against an inmate in a holding cell. Sanders shoved the captive man against a wall hard enough to fracture a vertebrae.

As is customary in such “dog and pony” CPD investigations, the Internal Affairs Department ruled in favor of Officer Sanders, even after he and his fellow officers were heard laughing about the incident. When Chief Burton reviewed the case, he overruled the findings of the Internal Affairs department, promptly and rightly firing Officer Sanders.

The city went on to deny Sanders the opportunity to purchase the police dog, Fano, further raising the ire of his supporters in the department.

Not surprisingly, due to its long history condoning excessive force and brutality at the hands of the Columbia Police, the CPOA has come to the aid of Sanders. The vicious attacks of the CPOA know no bounds.  CPOA Executive Director Ashley Cuttle even went so far as to make the claim to a Tribune reporter that Chief Burton has called officers and their families racists during meetings with The Bias Free Columbia Coalition. I was was in attendance at the meeting in question and sat less than 10 feet away from Chief Burton. The Chief said nothing of the sort. He simply and rightly said that nearly everyone carries some sort of racial bias and that his officers are human. Ashley Cuttle should be sued for using her status as CPOA Executive Director and union mouthpiece to float such glaring and damaging lies to the local media.

It is the CPOA that represents everything that is wrong in the Columbia Police Department. The CPOA is a rabid labor union that is more concerned with preserving officer pensions than protecting the civil rights of the very citizenry whom the officers purport to serve and protect. The CPOA cements the perverse solidarity that separates the the police from the community and turns otherwise good cops into accessories to the crimes of the few truly bad cops. Ratting on a bad CPOA member cop would carry a harsher punishment than ratting on a gang member in the streets. Chief Burton is now paying the price for daring to clean up a department that has struggled with integrity for many years.

And the attacks keep coming. Even the recently retired CPD Officer Jeff Westbrook penned an editorial in the Tribune denouncing Chief Burton. Westbrook was the detective who refused to allow detained criminal suspect Nicole Palmer to speak to her attorney despite several requests to do so. At 1:50 and 5:40 in the following video you can see Officer Jeff Westbrook in action, grinding our beloved Bill of Rights into the dirt with the heel of his jackboot, as he denies council to a prisoner. If this is the caliber of officer (or former officer) calling for Burton’s head, Burton must be doing something right.



Now these forces who are calling for the reinstatement of Rob Sanders have dredged up a 30+ year-old accusation of excessive force leveled against Chief Burton when he was a Dallas police officer. Thanks to the level-headed thinking of our freshman City Manager, Mike Matthes, this silly and ultimately dirty campaign will go nowhere.

Although we have not always agreed with Chief Burton, Keep Columbia Free publicly endorses Chief Burton’s continued vigilance combating racial bias in his department and wholeheartedly agree with his decision to fire Rob Sanders. Chief Burton is a welcome improvement when compared to the leadership the CPD has seen over the past 30 years. The so-called low morale in the department is merely a symptom of the decay left from the past years of poor management. It hurts to clean an infected wound. 

One thing has been made clear by these recent and ongoing events. Civilian oversight of our dysfunctional police department is more important than ever. Our Citizens Police Review Board needs to be given teeth and allowed to do more than merely make suggestions.  Please see a recent memorandum Keep Columbia Free submitted to the City Council and the CPRB. 


For another take on the subject, see  local policy analyst Eapen Thampy’s blog, Ducks and Economics.


Mark Flakne




0 thoughts on “Support for Chief Burton

  1. Ricky Gurley

    I went over to the Canine Fano Facebook Page tonight, and was graciously invited to participate in a debate with the group of people that are in support of Mr. Sanders. I lasted about two hours before I was “booted”. The person that “booted” me could not give me the same open-mindedness that he or she seemed to expect of me.

    Now, I want to say that I did have the great pleasure of engaging some really nice people over at the Canine Fano Group. I mean some really nice, decent people who I believe are Law Enforcement Officers and that support Mr. Sanders. Terry Toalson and Stacy Skiles were very professional, courteous, polite, and respectful; despite my “sharp tongue” that some people know me for. These are the two people that I know to be professionals in that group. We engaged each other in debate for about two hours, and they never lost their cool, did not call me names, or post in a disrespectful manner to me at all, they were humorous at times but never for a second mean-spirited or malicious. Folks, true professionalism does not fall apart under antagonism, scrutiny and/or pressure. Nor does it fade away even in the face of disrespect. It is simply there or it is not there. I suppose it can be faked for a little while, but “fake professionalism” falls apart under the correct “testing conditions”. I do respect certain members of that group; Terry and Stacy to name a few. They are very professional people, and they “passed my tests” in that regard and never wavered. But there are some people on that group that simply do not represent that group’s cause very well. I am sure that ALL of the people in that group are good and decent people. But one can be good and decent, but not know what it means to be professional.

    In my previous paragraph I outlined what I believe to be a core issue in this entire situation that we are seeing here in regards to Mr. Sanders and Chief Burton. I don’t think for a minute that Mr. Sanders is a “bad man”. I don’t think for a second that Mr. Sanders is a malicious person, either. As a matter of fact, I believe that Mr. Sanders is a decent person that would make anyone a good friend, a good neighbor, and is certainly a good family man. But sadly, Mr. Sanders may have just lost his professional bearing for just a split second that day that Mr. Sanders entered the holding cell where Mr. Baker was secured; and in my mind that is what is at issue here. Now, I wonder if Mr. Sanders was just at a point in his career that this was bound to happen? Perhaps he had just seen too much? Perhaps he was somewhat jaded by all of the terrible things he has had to see in his line of work? And perhaps all of that just made him lose it for split second in time? This situation is sad. A man lost his career. Another man had some physical damage occur to his neck that may affect him for the rest of his life. Our Chief of Police is now enduring some tremendous stress over his decision to terminate Mr. Sanders from the CPD. I have not seen anything good come from this situation. But despite how sad all of this is, someone has to be held accountable for what happened to Mr. Baker. There has to be consequences for another human being incurring the damage that Mr. Baker is suffering now. So, Mr. Sanders is held accountable. The consequences are that he lost his job. Is this appropriate and proper? I think it is. I am not judging Mr. Sanders as a person; I refuse to do that here. I am strictly judging his actions in that holding cell with Mr. Baker. I think that Mr. Sanders could have handled that situation in a better way. And I think that Mr. Sanders being a person that we must hold to a higher standard, is suffering the appropriate consequences for his actions.

    I think the prudent thing to do here in this case would be for Mr. Sanders to just move on and get a better paying job in the private sector with just as good of benefits as he had at the CPD; and put this whole ordeal behind him. I do not see any upside at all in continuing down this road that he is currently on. I don’t even see any possible beneficial outcome for Mr. Sanders in continuing down this road that he is currently on. Never the less, we must all understand that Mr. Sanders has every right in the world to seek legal remedies if he feels that he has been wrongfully terminated from the CPD. Mr. Sanders has every right in the world to make grievances, and petition for a redress of his situation. And we must all respect those rights of his, because they are our rights too.

    I have re-thought my position on Fano, and I do wish the city of Columbia would just give Fano to Mr. Sanders. I think that would be best for everyone involved; especially Fano. I do believe that Mr. Sanders would be responsible, and provide Fano with a good home and a good family. I base my opinion on giving Fano to Mr. Sanders on the MANY different people that have spoken up for him, and will attest to him being a responsible person.

    I hope that everyone involved in this situation comes out of this unscathed and as better people. After all, we are all human beings; and we all deserve some compassion from our fellow human beings.

    Thank you all for your time.

    Ricky B. Gurley.

    1. Margaret

      Well reasoned and well stated.

      Anyone who is authorised to exercise the People’s power should be held to a *very* high standard, because only those who can always wield the power responsibly should be entrusted with it. That’s just basic good sense!

      If they fail, and someone is harmed as was the case here, then at a minimum the person needs to be told to find other work.

      If they have an excellent record otherwise then maybe the other work can be in the same department with different responsibilities, or they could be given six months or a year to look around. But they shouldn’t be allowed to keep the job they proved they couldn’t handle.

      If K9 dogs are to be retired, they should certainly go to the human whom they love and who loves them, if at all possible. I don’t know whether Fano was to be retired or reassigned, but if Fano had little time remaining before retirement, it should be waived.

  2. Charles E Dudley Jr

    Do not feel bad Rick Canine Fano the Page Admin invited me to join which I did and chatted endless hours with them before they realized they could not “Convert Me” either and booted me too. I did try to be polite as I could and posted with very sound reasoning to no avail. They do not want to listen.

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  4. Graham Shevlin

    The fact that the owners of the Facebook page are booting people simply because they disagree with the page owners and supporters tells you all that you need to know about the pathology of the officer’s supporters. They live in a world where dissent is evil and must be eliminated or crushed. I do not want people like that either operating in or supporting law enforcement agencies.

    1. Mark Post author

      Removal from our Facebook page was predicated by foul, rude and threatening language on the part of the removed. It is, however, a fact that posters have been removed from the Canine Fano page, among others in support of Sanders, for merely making polite arguments.


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