Tag Archives: Columbia Missourian

Who Will Watch the Watchers?

Since its inception, our local Citizens Police Review Board has garnered a great deal of media attention. Whether it is fielding an appeal from California marijuana activist and global pot guru Ed Rosenthal or defending the human dignity of local Derek Billups, the CPRB continues to end up in the news. The recent decree from Mayor Bob McDavid that the CPRB and the Columbia Police Department resolve their differences is no exception.

Seemingly in response to recent CPRB rulings with which he did not agree and no doubt with the help of the Columbia Police Officers Assiation, the local police labor union, Police Chief Ken Burton submitted a written request to the city asking for changes to the ordinance which governs the board. Each of the suggested changes in his five-pronged attack, if implemented, would serve to weaken the board both in appearance and reality.

The appearance of the CPRB, as it is perceived by the public, is important. The board’s reputation has already been tarnished as Chief Burton summarily ignores every ruling or suggestion made by the board. This, along with his front and center presence at CPRB meetings, jumping to the podium frequently, without invitation, but also without protest from the board, has given the impression that the CPRB is slowly becoming a branch of the police department or is, at most, an impotent bureaucratic ruse.

For the most part, but with a few respective exceptions, the individuals on the board have done a fair job of judging each complaint. The ordinance which currently governs the CPRB is already weak. If the changes recommended by Chief Burton are added, the CPRB may as well be dissolved.

Here are Chief Burton’s proposed changes along with a few more issues as identified by the Columbia Missourian:

1. The definition of misconduct

The Chief of Police had recommended a definition based on the Missouri Revised Statute. The review board had recommended misconduct to be defined as “any violation of federal law, state law, city ordinance, city regulation or police department policy, guideline, directive, rule, regulation or order.”

Regardless of how the State of Missouri defines “misconduct,” the fact remains that this is our local police force, sanctioned by our local community to use force when necessary and funded by our tax dollars. It is right and just that these public servant police officers, whom we have hired to protect and serve the citizens of our community, should be answerable to the citizens of our community, either directly or via a representative board like the CPRB. To suggest that the citizens of Columbia do not have the right to define “misconduct” as it applies to the actions of officers in our Columbia Police Department is not only wrong, it is obscene.

2. Who can make an appeal?

The police want to limit the right to make an appeal only to people directly involved in the incident or parents or legal guardians of people directly involved.

The review board maintains it should not be limited.

This suggestion is an obvious attempt to place another bitter bit in the mouth of the CPRB by further limiting who has standing before the board. This plank in Burton’s campaign of domination reeks of the prevailing paternal police perspective as it implies that the board cannot judge standing or the legitimacy of any case on its own. The board should decide what cases are legitimate and what cases are not.

3. Open records

Due to a section in the review board’s ordinance, the filing of a complaint causes opening of records that are otherwise closed by law, including police officer personnel files and closed criminal reports. Police recommend that this section be eliminated. This would allow the board to review the personnel files, but they will be off-limits for the public.

The review board disagrees with this recommendation.

4. Closed sessions and interviews

Police have recommended giving complainants the option to make a request for a closed testimony. In an earlier Missourian report, the board’s new chair, James Martin, had said the board’s sessions should not be closed.

These two points speak to the issue of transparency. The purpose of this board is to pierce the “Blue Shield” of police secrecy that has plagued Columbia for some time. Before the CPRB, complaints would often be swept under the rug or buried in department bureaucracy and red tape. While personnel and employee privacy questions may seem valid, we must remember that, as public employees, the police are employees of the public. As employees of the public entrusted to use lethal force in the line of duty, transparency is of even greater import.

5. Training recommendations

McDavid said the police have asked for “more defined” training standards for the review board members.

The Missourian missed the meat of this issue. The police and their labor union have repeatedly asked that the board submit to an increasing amount of police-directed training. Board members already do some training directly with police and can always request to voluntarily meet with police for a ride-along or any other investigative/learning session. It is also true that several members of the board are former police officers or have had some police training. The newest member of the board, Roger Dowis, is a longtime veteran of the LAPD who served during the Rodney King era and is surely well versed in the use of force in law enforcement. Carroll Highbarger is a retired, career police officer who rose to the rank of Deputy Chief of the CPD before retiring to teach criminal justice at Columbia College. Susan Smith, who sadly seems to represent the police more often than not,  is a former prosecutor who also teaches criminal justice. Also in the law enforcement mix is Steve Sheltmire who is the graduate of civilian police academies in both Kansas City and Columbia.

The public, especially the African American community, already sees the CPRB as somewhat weak and weighted heavily by former officers and law enforcement lackeys.  This requirement for more training, while certainly providing the opportunity for the department to directly influence board members, would send the undeniable message to the civilian citizens of Columbia that the CPRB is in bed with the CPD and the CPOA and is therefor useless. How’s that for some confusing acronym usage?

6. Police policies to be posted online

One of the differences is the review board’s recommendation that police post their policies online so that the public, the board and police can easily access them. The police department didn’t address this issue in its report.

Of course the police failed to address this issue just as they fail to address any issue brought to light by the CPRB. The Chief as thumbed his nose at the board since its inception and he will continue to do so unless reigned in by both the elected and appointed representatives of the public he paid to serve.

7. Regular reports on complaints

The review board has asked the police department to provide it with monthly and annual reports containing information on complaints.

It will be interesting to see if the department provides this report and if the report is thorough and accurate. I’ve not heard much discussion on this issue and it seems like a reasonable request.

At a recent CPRB meeting a discussion took place regarding these changes. Several attorneys and members of the public asked the board to deny the chief’s requests and stand their ground. Here are Mitch Richards’s remarks on behalf of Keep Columbia Free. His exchange with the newest appointee, former LAPD narcotics officer Roger Dowis, happens during the last half of the video.




During the meeting seen in this video, the CPRB opted to have a public hearing on the proposed ordinance changes. It is of vital importance that the citizens of Columbia take the time to come to this hearing and take part in democracy at the basic and most important level. There will be plenty of opportunity for public comment if you have something to say, but you don’t have to speak. Just show up and show support. Just show up and let the City Council and the CPRB know that it is important to you that our local police become and remain accountable directly to the citizens whom they serve. Please put this public hearing on your calendar. It is August 24th at 7:00 pm at the new City Hall building. Everyone is welcome.

Mark Flakne

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Why I’m Starting to Warm Up to Mayor McDavid

During the campaign that both authorized downtown “safety” cameras and elected the three Chamber of Commerce amigos, Kespohl, Dudley and McDavid, I will admit that Bob McDavid was not my pick for mayor. The main reason for my dislike of McDavid was the fact that he supported Karen Taylor’s campaign to place the so-called “safety” cameras downtown. While McDavid only said there was a “perceived” crime problem and never claimed that Columbia was as crime ridden as the other two amigos and Ms. Taylor would have had us believe (in spite of an overwhelming pile of evidence to the contrary), he never missed the opportunity to place himself next to Taylor and her Keep Columbia Safe group. His support of our local scapegrace of surveillance now appears to have been more of a shrewd political maneuver than a heartfelt belief that Big Brother style surveillance was needed in Downtown Columbia.

But lately, McDavid has come down on the side of common sense in regard to local issues. While it really doesn’t make up for the $50,000 spent on a year of cameras, his turn to common sense leadership is nonetheless refreshing.

His open criticism of the behemoth 5th and Walnut garage is one step in the right direction for McDavid. In a KOMU 8 story on the subject McDavid said.

I personally think the 5th and Walnut parking garage was overbuilt… I believe that the process was flawed. We committed $16 million to a garage that is going to lose money for some time.

Bob has even taken a sensible stance on the public art displayed on the garage and elsewhere around town. Columbia sets aside 1% from each new construction project to pay for art associated with the project. In each case, for some unknown reason, instead of relying on a local artist, Columbia has looked elsewhere for the talent to design these large projects and has ended up with some real eyesores. Chief among these eyesores, in my opinion, is the $200,000 “Keys to the City” sculpture which adorns the entrance to city hall and looks more like a cheap shop class project or giant version of a child’s night light than a $200,000 work of art.

Now the sophomoric $140,000 so-called “art” on the 5th and Walnut garage entitled “Sky Algorithm” has been installed incorrectly and is inaccessible to the disabled community. Mayor McDavid said he is “embarrassed” by the project. Surely these public art funds could be kept in the community by using a local artist. Here is what Bob had to say:

We make a mistake when we don’t use local artists… We will never see this artist again… For $140,000, I expect it to be accurate.

With the 5th and Walnut debacle in mind, McDavid had some rather sensible things to say about the upcoming Short Street garage project. In response to some locals who would like to see ground-floor retail space in the new garage in order to avoid dead space for pedestrians, McDavid said:

I believe the philosophy that government has no business running retail or commercial development… I understand that a lot of people would like to have commercial. I would also argue that empty commercial is dead space, too.

Hey, Bob, I agree!

And speaking of garages, when Daryl Dudley decided to one-up his first patriotic suggestion to require the council to recite the Pledge of Allegiance at the start of every meeting by suggesting that an American flag on a 60-foot flagpole be installed atop the already embarrassing 5th and Walnut garage, McDavid said “no.” McDavid rightly stated:

I consider myself patriotic. I really don’t want to spend the money for this.

McDavid made what is, in my opinion, another correct vote when he voted against allowing Tom Rippeto, owner of Red and Moe Pizzaria, to sell beer on the street inside the boundaries of Summerfest which is funded privately by Blue Note owner Richard King. Requiring King to jump through all of the city hoops and red tape to bring national acts to Downtown Columbia and then allowing another business to piggyback on King’s significant investment without sharing the risk is certainly wrongheaded. Unfortunately the rest of the council did not agree with McDavid and the only other dissenting vote, Kespohl, so King moved his festival to a private venue.

Here is what McDavid had to say:

You’re letting someone put capital at risk, and then you’re letting someone with no risk come in and take his profit margin

Although I haven’t agreed with everything Bob McDavid has done as mayor, these things stand out as good work by a local elected official. Let’s hope for more of the same.

Mark Flakne

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Fred and the Giant Garage: A Love Story

It has been nicknamed “Leviathan” by local activist Eapen Thampy, called “overbuilt” by Mayor Bob McDavid, labled an “unattractive nuisance” and “GarageZilla” by local political watchdog blogger Mike Martin, and deemed a career ending “mistake” for Public Works director John Glascock by attorney and neighbor Elton Fay, but newly elected First Ward City Councilman Fred Schmidt has recently professed his love for what may be the most execrated structure in Columbia, the Fifth and Walnut Parking Garage.

A recent story in the Columbia Tribune reports:

Recently, First Ward Councilman Fred Schmidt has taken it upon himself to become a supporter of something that many Columbia residents love to hate — the parking garage at Fifth and Walnut streets.

Construction of the $15 million garage was delayed by weather, and residents have complained about its size, cost and luminescence. A woman fell to her death from the garage last month. The city has had trouble finding takers for the retail spaces built into the ground level of the garage.

So Schmidt has decided to come to its aid. In a recent radio interview, he said he liked the look of the thing and almost instantly, he said, the phone board lit up. One caller took time to bash Schmidt’s casual dress at council meetings. But Schmidt knows he’s taking an unpopular position.

“It’s an awkward teenager,” Schmidt said about the garage. “It’s too tall and upset about its looks.”

He added: “But I think people are going to like it someday.”

And what the Tribune reports as a $15 million price tag will actually cost the taxpayers of Columbia closer to $21 million when interest is figured into the equation.

How can Fred support an $21,000,000 parking structure that is currently sets nearly empty every day of the week when his own ward, especially the lowest income areas that, incidentally, have the lowest voter turnout, suffers from bedraggledbasic infrastructure like collapsing sewers and crumbling sidewalks? Adding insult to injury, these neighborhoods are nearly in the shadow of the deserted behemoth.

Fred, an active member of PedNet since 2004, seems to have forsaken even his PedNet pals withhis support of the new giant garage at Fifth and Walnut and his desire to make sure the coming Short St. garage is built to maximum size. Ian Thomas, the Executive Director of the PedNet Coalition, has been very outspoken on behalf of PedNet regarding city parking garages and the studies used as justification for the expenditure of public money. There is a well thought out post on the PedNet site condemning the city for building the giant Fifth and Walnut garage in which PedNet notes that their own survey turned up over 500 empty spaces in the existing downtown city garages on business days.

In a letter to the Columbia City Council regarding the pending Short Street parking garage, as reported by Mike Martin in his Columbia Heart Beat blog, Thomas made several well reasoned arguments against the city plan to build another parking garage on Short St.

One glaring conflict of interest can be found in the fact that the same company, Walker Parking Consultants (WPC), that conducted the study which concluded we need more parking garages in Downtown Columbia is the company who was given the contract to design the garages. If they don’t find the need for the garage, then they don’t get the the design money. See how that works?

From The Columbia Heart Beat:

First hired in 2009 to design Columbia’s much-maligned eight story downtown garage on 5th and Walnut, WPC was tapped again for $503,000 to design a second garage on Short Street.
But the WPC study in support of that garage presents an obvious conflict of interest, Thomas explained, because the firm that finds the problem also gets to design the solution. “How independent and objective was this parking study, when Walker Parking Consultants had the incentive of a large public contract if a high level of unmet parking demand were estimated?” Thomas wrote.
A WPC move to tie its own recommendations to H3 Studios’ 2010 Downtown Urban Design CharretteThomas also found “unjustified.” Charrette participants emphasized “livability and esthetics, and enhancement of bicycle, pedestrian, and transit options,” he noted, only to have WPC wrongly co-opt that discussion, “as if the Short Street Garage is a natural consequence of the Charrette,” Thomas wrote. “The H3 Charrette report never discusses automobile parking,” instead emphasizing alternatives such as public transportation.

Also from the Columbia Heart Beat:

“I believe there are some serious problems with parking studies in general, and with these two parking studies in particular,” Thomas told Hoppe, referencing the WPC study and an earlier report from TransSystems Corporation. Ultimately, WPC’s newest data do not support the Short Street garage, he found. “Committing funding to more off-street supply is not going to solve the problems of a lack of on-street supply and associated traffic congestion.”

But wait… at a recent city council retreat, Fred Schmidt expressed concern that the plans for the new Short Street garage might not be big enough.

The Columbia Missourian reports:

First Ward Councilman Fred Schmidt said he did not want the city to limit itself with a small amount of spaces in an already developed area.

“We want to think real hard before we cut down the size and scope of the project,” Schmidt said.

With his recent flip-flop on downtown surveillance cameras and now a split from his bicycle buddies on the issue of downtown parking, I’m curious to see what Fred will do next.

Here is the KOMU video about the empty garage.

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Fred Explains His Camera Vote

Recently Fred Schmidt posted a blog in response to our criticism of his flip-flop vote in favor of funding police surveillance cameras in Downtown Columbia. In his “Inside the Council” blog, Fred attempts to justify his vote in favor of the cameras. Not only did Fred campaign in opposition to the cameras, his First Ward constituents voted against the cameras by an overwhelming margin. I’ll take issue with his reasoning here.

Fred states:

The Council’s vote on May 16 was not a vote to undo the city’s electoral decision on whether to have cameras downtown. That vote had been settled in the election. The majority of the First Ward didn’t agree with that outcome. I didn’t agree. But we can’t undo the election–at least without another election on the issue or court intervention.

This statement is wrong on many levels. First, the “electoral decision” made by voters in April of 2010 merely authorizes the use of so-called “safety cameras” in the downtown area. Although the vote was construed as a mandate by its proponents, it most certainly was not.

Proponents also campaigned on the camera price tag of $50k with half coming from the Downtown CID. The contract that Fred approved carries a price tag of $75k with $25k coming from the CID. With the camera project coming in $25k over budget, Fred could easily have justified a “no” vote in spite of the so-called “electoral decision.”

Fred goes on:

I voted in favor of the motion because a vote against funding would have simply been a protest vote.  It would not have changed the outcome.  I chose, under the circumstances, to exemplify my willingness to work “with” the Council, not “against” it. You can be assured, that I will not always agree with the majority on the Council–nor will I do so just to be agreeable–but in this instance nothing would have been gained by a meaningless protest vote.

What Fred is saying is that he will always try to vote with the majority of the council regardless of the wants and needs of the First Ward and regardless of his own conscience. One thing is for sure, the First Ward needs a strong voice willing to stand up to the rest of the council — a council that is weighted heavily with pro-establishment representatives. With his vote on this issue and subsequent explanation, Fred has demonstrated that he does not possess the will or strength of voice to stand up to the rest of the council.

Policy analyst Eapen Thampy commented on Fred’s determination that following the will of his constituents would have been a “meaningless protest vote” in his Ducks and Economics blog.

Thampy writes:

     To represent others in an elected, decision-making body is a difficult task. Nevertheless, Fred could have at least forced a council debate over spending priorities. The First Ward is short a fire company and lacks a competent police force, yet Fred could have represented his constituents by representing their views in open council and initiating a debate.

     Moreover, there is a matter of integrity. One should not run for elected office opposing something and flip flop on that issue at the first available opportunity. Can First Ward voters trust Fred from here on out? Will any of the promises Fred made during his campaign stick or will we find that political expediency and power politics are the most important determinants of Fred’s vote?

Thampy is correct. There is nothing meaningless about a protest vote.

Fred goes on:

The civil liberties issues are complex. As Dan Viets points out, the ACLU is clear that they support the rights of private property owners to have security cameras. This extends to cameras that point away from a business into the street. In a similar vein, if you are on the street and decide to shoot video of what’s happening there, you have that right as a private citizen to do so. There are security cameras everywhere, and society by and large accepts them. For some reason, Keep Columbia Safe and Keep Columbia Free have rallied around only this one set of cameras.

Fred fails to see the difference between cameras owned and operated by private citizens and private businesses and cameras monitored by the state. Keep Columbia Free believes that property owners and business owners have the right to surveille from their own property and at their own expense. They are also free to share their camera footage with the government if they choose.

I wonder if Dan Viets agrees with how Fred has co-opted his words to justify a pro-camera vote?

And what sort of justification is Fred pointing to when he states “society by and large accepts them [surveillance cameras].” Societal acceptance does not make something right. At one time the chattel enslavement of humans was accepted by society by and large. That did not make slavery morally acceptable.

Fred should also do a little homework on Keep Columbia Free. We openly oppose government surveillance technology in nearly every case. I’m not sure if Fred is demonstrating ignorance or merely lying when he says that Keep Columbia Free has “rallied around only this one set of cameras.”

While I had hoped Fred would prove me wrong and shake off his recent pro-establishment and authoritarian cloak, his public explanation has cemented my previous opinion. Will someone please remind Fred that he was elected by the First Ward to represent the First Ward? Pretty please!

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Fred Schmidt Betrays First Ward

During Monday night’s Columbia City Council meeting, the council voted unanimously to provide funding for government surveillance cameras in Downtown Columbia. For most of us who have followed the camera debate, the “yes” votes from the establishment voting block comprised of McDavid, Dudley, Kespohl, and Thornhill, three of whom rode the crime/fear/camera stalking horse into office, came as no surprise. Even Anthony’s vote was predictable and Hoppe’s not too surprising.

It was Fred Schmidt who shocked the crowd with his vote in favor of the cameras as he fell lock-step in line with the empirically baseless, pro-camera, establishment zeitgeist that has affected many Columbians outside the First Ward. The First Ward, represented by Schmidt, voted overwhelmingly against the camera initiative in April of 2010. Fred even campaigned on his opposition to the downtown cameras during his run for the First Ward seat as evidenced by this excerpt from the Columbia Missourian.

All four First Ward candidates opposed the installation of downtown cameras — a result of Proposition 1, a ballot initiative that won approval in the April 2010 municipal election. A majority of First Ward voters rejected the proposition in that election.

“The voters spoke on this,” Schmidt said. “The city overwhelmingly voted for them. Ward one voted overwhelmingly against them.” He noted the cameras are a “perception of safety.”

And this excerpt from Fred’s own campaign website:

I do not support the city’s widespread use of surveillance cameras in downtown Columbia, especially when downtown is singled out as the location, in spite of crime being much more prevalent in other locations. I do support the use of surveillance cameras being installed by private businesses and the public installation of cameras in public facilities, such as parking garages or city buildings. This stance, I believe, is a more restrictive use of cameras but one that upholds current legislation as passed by voters.

This about face from Fred “Flip-Flop” Schmidt begs the question… “why?” Fred did raise quite a bit of money for a First Ward campaign, spending $12,403.12 on his candidacy. Even in local elections, money comes with strings attached. Is somebody pulling Fred’s strings?

It could also be that Fred simply told a lie. Perhaps Fred is planning a career in politics and is simply practicing his forked tongue technique for the day when he moves up to the big leagues. Lying seems to be a requirement for both Democrat and Republican politicians.

The saddest part of the situation is that just when the First Ward needs a strong voice on the council the most, their new representative, Fred Schmidt, shows his true colors as an authoritarian establishment shill.

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Chief Burton

Since the story broke regarding the Dresner/Haden illicit affair, some have made the argument that Dresner and Haden are the only ones at fault. While it is true that both Dresner and Haden are to blame for their extramarital coworker coitus, it is important to take a look at how the situation was handled by Chief Burton.

One important fact that is often left out of the discussion is that Haden was married to a cop. Not only was she married to a cop, she was married to a cop who was serving under the leadership of her lover, Deputy Chief Tom Dresner. So Dresner was sleeping with a subordinate and the wife of a subordinate. Not only did Dresner oversee the promotion of his lover, he was literally sending the husband of his lover into situations where he was literally asked to put his life on the line. Anyone with a modicum of intelligence can see the problem with this situation.

Since Haden and her husband did not share a last name, I’m going to let his identity remain a secret for those who do not already know. The guy has been humiliated enough by his former wife and his chief.  If you must satisfy your curiosity, it’s a matter of public record. Look it up.

Imagine how Haden’s cop husband must feel. His boss, Deputy Chief Tom Dresner, is sleeping with his wife right under the nose of Chief Burton and when Burton is forced to take action by Dresner’s wife, all he does is ask Dresner to resign. I guess we don’t have to look to far to know who sent the anonymous press release regarding Burton’s handling of the affair. And let’s not forget that a copy of Haden’s resignation letter was also sent to the media anonymously. Suffice it to say that there are those among the ranks of the CPD who want Burton gone.

What this boils down to is that there is at least one – and more likely several – Columbia police officer(s) who have lost faith in Chief Burton. If he refuses to punish his right hand man, Dresner, for sleeping with your wife, does he really have your back on the street?

As the Tribune story points out, Burton is no stranger to controversy. While in Texas, he was embroiled in some unsavory investigations into his actions and the actions of his department.

During Columbia’s vetting of candidates for chief that eventually settled on Burton, concerned citizen Tracy Greever-Rice, did her homework on the candidates and found a great deal of information on Burton. She points out that we may be seeing a pattern now that was ignored during the search. Greever-Rice told KCF:

Ken definitely has a charismatic personality. He interviews well, and people tend to like him personally (including me). However, he has a pretty solid pattern of having things work out the way they seem to be headed here. With just a little research, we could have avoided what will likely prove to be an expensive mistake of having to run a new search for a police chief in the relatively near future.

I certainly agree with her assessment of Chief Burton’s personality. He seems like the kind of guy you’d want to set down and have a beer with. Heck, it almost pains me to critique his work until I remember that he is a public official in charge of a public police department paid with public funds. Public scrutiny goes with the territory.

Here is an excerpt from Tracy Greever-Rice’s email to a member of the selection committee:

In the links below are info regarding three firings and a demotion made by Burton. Two fired officers were reinstated and the demotion was reversed (which could certainly in & of itself be interpreted as reason to question his judgment). Conversely, two other officers, both of which shot and killed dogs – one of whom shot at yet another dog but instead hit a person, was twice caught beating people up, and also caught driving drunk –  were disciplined for these incidents but not fired. I think this is worthwhile information for Columbians to consider: Do these decisions by Burton reflect our community’s values?

So let’s take a look at some of the information Tracy Greever-Rice uncovered early in 2009 and shared with the selection committee.

Some of what she found has now been archived and is only available for a fee. If you are interested in taking a look at these archived sources, visit the Star-Telegram archive and search for “Police Chief Ken Burton”. You’ll be able to read the first few paragraphs of each story without paying.

Here are some of the stories that are still available for free…

The Tribune article mentions an incident regarding the purchase of a motorcycle while Burton was chief in Haltom City in Tarrant County, Texas. From what I can tell, the story goes like this. Burton wrote a letter to Harley Davidson on behalf of one of his officer buddies assuring Harley Davidson that a soon to be purchased motorcycle would be used for police business. This helped save the officer nearly $4000 because Harley offers a special deal for law enforcement motorcycles. The motorcycle was actually intended for personal use and was never used for police work. Another officer, Eric Chambliss, blew the whistle on the fraud which triggered an investigation by the Texas Rangers. During the investigation, Burton claimed he didn’t remember signing such a letter and the letter was never produced for the Grand Jury. The Grand Jury refused to indict Burton based on lack of evidence. After the ruling, the letter signed by Burton surfaced. Burton later fired the whistle blower, Eric Chambliss, for “disrupting the workplace”, a charge unrelated to the whistle blowing. The city then overturned the firing of Chambliss and reinstated him.

Read all about it HERE and HERE

So it’s OK to steal nearly $4000 from Harley Davidson, but not OK to steal a soda?

And it appears that Burton is was no stranger to controversial firings being overturned. Read about it HERE

He also left some work in Bryan, Texas after some strange personnel decisions.

He became the unit supervisor for the department’s bicycle team in January 2002. Six months later, then-Chief Ken Burton promoted Slanker to assistant chief, passing over several veteran lieutenants.

More on Burton’s personnel decisions HERE

Greever-Rice even found precedent for Chief Burton’s acceptance of  “Puppycide” (a term coined by Radley Balko). In an incident that will seem strangely familiar to folks who have followed the Kinloch Ct. incident in Columbia, Burton’s officers in Haltom City were cleared of wrong doing after they shot an obese Jack Russell terrier after kicking in the door of a residence. The story goes on to tell of another incident under Burton’s watch where one of his officers missed the dog and shot a man in the legs. It appears that under Burton’s leadership, when it comes to dogs, the rule is shoot first and ask questions later even when the dog is an ankle-biting Jack Russell terrier.

Here are a list of links regarding Burton’s tenure in Texas.

City seeking grip on Burton gripes

Bryan officers speak out for chief

Burton given high marks in survey

A letter to the editor regarding the survey of Burton

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Banning Red Light Cameras in Columbia

I’ve written a couple of  blogs on the subject of red light cameras in Columbia, questioning the City Manager’s assessment of their effectiveness. You can read them HERE and HERE. I contend, and the city’s own documents support the fact, that red light cameras do not keep us safe from accidents at intersections. Instead, these Orwellian tools serve only to extract a profit for international corporate giant, Gatso, and the City of Columbia. Along with financial profits, the cameras added over $80,000 to the city budget and bureaucracy which gives a boost to the resume of any up and coming assistant city manager.

While accidents at some of the surveilled intersections did decrease, others stayed relatively static or saw marked increases under the watchful eye of the cameras.

Read the City Manager’s report here.

See the actual accident statistics here.

And let us not forget that red light cameras represent one more step in the ever encroaching tide of government surveillance. In a few short years our local government has embraced iris scanners, license plate readers, downtown surveillance cameras, and red light cameras all in the name of public safety. None of these “tools” have made us safer. Instead they have moved us closer to the day when government officials can track us from the moment we leave the house  until the moment we return home.

With this in mind, Keep Columbia Free and Young Americans for Liberty (YAL) will begin collecting signatures for a proposed red light camera ban in Columbia. Several other municipalities around the state and around the country have banned red light cameras and it’s time Columbia did the same.

See the Keep Columbia Free Red Light Camera Ban ballot language here.

We’ll be gathering signatures all over town soon. If you want to sign the petition, check our contact us page and drop a line one way or another.

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