Today, Ashley Cuttle, the paid director of the local police labor union, the CPOA, renewed and doubled down on her attack on Columbia Police Chief Ken Burton. Burton has done his best to reform a troubled department despite the foot-dragging of veteran officers. Change never comes easy, especially in government, but when the pant-suited pit bull Cuttle is leading the charge against that change, there is a recipe for trouble.
To assist her in her character and career assassination of Burton, Cuttle has enlisted the help of labor leader Kevin Albrand, President of the Missouri Fraternal Order of Police. The two appeared on the Gary Nolan Show following their meeting with Mayor Bob McDavid and City Manager Mike Mathes where they lobbied for Burton’s termination.
Mitch Richards of Keep Columbia Free called the show and artfully challenged the legitimacy of the CPOA argument during the second half of the radio segment. You can stream to the radio interviewHERE or go directly to the mp3 download by clicking HERE.
While the CPOA has fought Burton at every turn, the real attack started after Burton fired Rob Sanders. Sanders was fired following his brutal assault of an unarmed and detained suspect after which he laughed about the incident as the suspect writhed on the floor in agony stemming from a broken neck.
Please show your support of Chief Burton by signing our online petition. Click HERE to go to the petition.
Here is the video of the brutal attack at the hands of Rob Sanders.
It looks like Keep Columbia Free has worked its way under the skin of the police brutality apologists. This is a screen-shot from a Facebook page run by disgruntled ex-CPD officers. It’s a little flattering to have made their hit list alongside the Chief of Police, the City Manager, and the Editor of the Tribune.
Keep Columbia VP, Abhi Sivasailam, is featured in this ABC 17 news story talking about why we support Chief Burton.
Here’s another video of former officer Rob Sanders in action. This time he’s not violently assaulting an unarmed, detained citizen, but he is harassing local police watchdogs, Citizens for Justice , instead of serving and protecting the public…
A few days ago at a local holiday party I was introduced to an area law enforcement officer, not an officer of the CPD. I was actually a bit surprised and somewhat flattered when she told me that she reads this blog. After a bit of casual conversation, this officer made the comment that the Columbia Police Department is “dirty — one of the dirtiest departments” she’s encountered in her many years working in law enforcement. After making this statement she made it clear that her comments were strictly off the record.
In fact, she was afraid of the repercussions that would come her way for making such a statement. The good-ol’-boy, fraternal, police union, us v. them atmosphere in law enforcement should be frightening to us all. There are good officers who cannot speak publicly about corruption for fear of losing their career of even their life. Even First Ward City Councilman Fred Schmidt expressed a fear of reprisal from the local police after making statements condemning a recent act of police brutality. (click HERE to skip to 3:10 in this video to hear what Fred has to say about his fear)
It is time that the citizens of Columbia realize the high costs of allowing this canker of cop corruption to continue to fester as it has for the last forty years.
A source very close to the Baker camp told KCF that there is a gag order in place and the settlement was actually $750,000 along with an agreement to drop all pending charges against Baker, including his failure to pay child support which he will presumably now be able to pay with our tax dollars.
So, besides the obvious monetary costs, keeping a violent bully like Rob Sanders on the force for the past 18 years has not only cost we the taxpayers, three quarters of a million dollars, it has allowed a noted, dangerous miscreant, Kenneth Baker, to freely walk the streets among us instead of remaining behind bars where he obviously belongs. Columbia is a more dangerous place, in more ways than one, thanks to Rob Sanders and officers like him.
And Sanders, his wife, his ex-cop buddies, and the CPOA thugs have the gall to condemn Burton for firing Sanders and demand that Sanders be reinstated as an officer. If Sanders wants his job back, he should start by coughing up $750,000. I want my money back!
Sanders should have been fired years ago along with any other officer who thinks and acts like him. Let’s hope that any remaining officers who subscribe to the Sander school of police work have the moral wherewithal to change their ways or face immediate termination by Chief Burton.
If you are interested in supporting Chief Burton in his battle to reform our police department against the will of the police unions, pleasesign this petition.
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 forusing excessive forceagainst 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.
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 hascalled officers and their families racistsduring 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 pennedan editorial in the Tribunedenouncing 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 freshmanCity 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.
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 adefinition 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. Inan 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.