Chris Burbank no longer chief of Salt Lake City PD

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NOTE: Scroll down for the full, unedited video of Chris Burbank's press conference regarding his resignation.

SALT LAKE CITY – Salt Lake City Mayor Ralph Becker stated in a press conference Thursday that Salt Lake City Police Department Chief Chris Burbank has not lived up to the mayor's expectations regarding an investigation into allegations of sexual harassment, and Burbank said he resigned his position after being given an ultimatum by the mayor.

Becker made the announcement Thursday just before 4 p.m., and he has appointed Chief Mike Brown as the interim chief of Salt Lake City PD.

"It is with personal regret, that I announce today, Chief Burbank's departure from Salt Lake City Government," Becker said, later adding: "The chief has fallen below my expectations.”

The announcement is in connection to the handling of claims of sexual harassment brought against then-Deputy Chief Rick Findlay.

"In this specific case involving legitimate and substantiated claims of sexual harassment by a supervisor in the police department, we have three police officers who were betrayed by a superior," Becker said of the way the case was handled.

The city's human resources department and the police civilian review board determined in 2013 Findlay had acted inappropriately. Burbank placed Findlay on paid administrative leave, where he remained for about nine months until retiring with full benefits.

Becker said that his office had sent a corrective action letter to Burbank about one year ago regarding the issue. The letter states that in April of 2014 it was agreed that Findlay would be demoted, and the mayor's office said Burbank's move to put Findlay on leave was effectively "running out the clock" on the issue.

"While the offending officer police officer is no longer working for Salt Lake City, unfortunately this matter was not handled in the way that I had directed at the time," Becker said Thursday. "In fact, Chief Burbank's decision was contrary to specific direction from my office. In recent conversations with me, he had repeatedly asserted that he had believed, and continues to believe, his actions were sufficient."

The handling of Findlay's case has recently become the basis of a lawsuit. Click here for more details on the lawsuit brought forward by the three female officers who are suing the city and police department over their handling of a sexual harassment case.

Becker added, "I want every woman in Salt Lake City Government to know, that we value your service, and that sexual harassment will not be tolerated."

In a press conference later in the afternoon, Burbank told reporters he had a meeting with the mayor at 3 p.m. Thursday and that when he arrived he was given a pre-written statement and told to sign it and publicly apologize or resign--or be fired.

“[I] Was given an ultimatum that I deliver a signed apology to a press conference that they already called, I could resign, or I could be terminated," Burbank said. See the video below for the full press conference.

Burbank said he only got part way into the letter and didn't finish reading the whole thing because he didn't agree with the content. He said he believes in doing the right thing, and said in this case he felt that meant resigning rather than signing the letter. Burbank said several times he believes the move was political, and added that in his 9 years as chief he has disagreed with mayors but that this time it happened to occur during an election year.

Burbank said he felt his actions in the harassment case were sufficient and that the matter had been resolved more than a year ago.

“Policy, practice was followed in this particular circumstance," Burbank said. "One of things that I’ve always stood by is that I am fair and I am consistent in how I administer discipline and there was no questions that that’s how it was."

He said he moved to make sure Findlay wouldn't be around other officers after the allegations came to light.

"I made a decision that I thought best for the organization based on he was no longer in the workplace, he would no longer be in the workplace and moved out of the situation," he said.

Burbank said he is friends with and works with those suing the department and the city and says he is empathetic to their situation, but he said he has to consistently apply discipline to his officers and felt like he handled the allegations appropriately.

“For me to stand up and say this is the right thing to do would be a lie and would be a political move to get somebody elected," Burbank said.

He added: " “My decision was to resign from my position, and I will always stand up for what I believe to be the right thing to do. Even if that cost me my position, I will always stand up.”

Becker released a lengthy statement regarding the issue, saying he had wanted "to give Chief Burbank one more opportunity to reflect on his decision and jointly address this issue with me in an acceptable manner. Unfortunately, we have been unable to reach agreement. So it is with personal regret, that I announce today Chief Burbank's departure from Salt Lake City government."

Salt Lake City Mayoral candidate Jackie Biskupski and Salt Lake City Council Member Charlie Luke also issued statements, which are posted in this article below Becker's statement.

The full statement from Becker is reproduced below:

"A couple of weeks ago, a well- documented sexual harassment claim in our Police Department received renewed public attention in the context of a threatened lawsuit against the City. This event created additional public discussion and the victims raised understandable questions about how this matter was handled by Salt Lake City. As I stated at the time, sexual harassment is unacceptable in Salt Lake City government. Period.

In our City – and in City government – everyone should feel included and protected. In this specific case involving legitimate and substantiated claims of sexual harassment by a supervisor in the Police Department, we have three officers who were betrayed by a superior. Their claims were brought to the attention of and reviewed by the City’s Human Resources Department and Police Civilian Review Board - two very competent and professional organizations within City government. They both completed a thorough investigation, and both investigations sustained the allegations.

While the offending police officer is no longer working for Salt Lake City, unfortunately this matter was not handled in the way I had directed at the time.

In fact, Chief Burbank’s decision was contrary to specific direction from my office. In recent private conversations with me he had repeatedly asserted that he believed, and continues to believe, his actions were sufficient; this was also evident in his recent comments to the media on this topic. The Chief can speak for himself regarding the rationale for his decisions. Today, I am sharing with you the details of actions I took with Chief Burbank a year ago when he did not properly manage this situation.

This corrective action letter was sent to the Chief immediately following his inaction regarding the offending officer. The letter in many ways speaks for itself, but the upshot is that I, through my Chief of Staff David Everitt, in coordination with our Human Resources Department and the City Attorney’s Office, had urged our Police Chief to, at a minimum, demote the offending officer and take corrective measures to avoid future incidents of sexual harassment. The Police Chief did not follow our direction, and has taken only modest steps to implement the strong corrective actions outlined in the letter. These actions specifically included additional training and protective procedures for police officers. We have been monitoring the measures outlined in this corrective letter to Chief Burbank over the past year to determine if he was implementing them within the Salt Lake City Police Department, and while some implementation has taken place,, on balance the Chief has fallen below my expectations.

Also over the past year since this situation arose, my team and I have struggled with a difficult situation. We have wanted to protect the privacy of personnel actions, particularly the victims whose identities remained private until they chose to go public a couple of weeks ago. We also didn’t want to minimize the remarkable service of Chief Burbank and the ways in which he has reflected the high ideals of Salt Lake City government and our City.

Because this unusual situation involves a long serving and well respected Department Director I directly supervise, I wanted to give Chief Burbank one more opportunity to reflect on his decision and jointly address this issue with me in an acceptable manner. Unfortunately, we have been unable to reach agreement.

So it is with personal regret, that I announce today Chief Burbank’s departure from Salt Lake City government. He has honored Salt Lake City in many ways by his service, and has made us proud in the way he has protected so many people in our community. His strong advocacy for civil rights, protection and inclusion of all residents of the City in our public safety umbrella, and personal actions to recognize the rights of everyone to exercise their first amendment rights - as he did in the Occupy Salt Lake and Tim DeChristopher protests - defused difficult situations and reflected well on our City and policing. I’m grateful for his service and that he has stayed as long as he has. But it’s now time to turn the page and begin a new chapter in policing in Salt Lake City.

I’m naming Deputy Chief Mike Brown as interim Chief for the next several months. He has a wonderful record of service in Salt Lake City and will provide continuing strong protection in our community while recognizing the rights of everyone and maintaining the trust that is at the core of policing in Salt Lake City. The people of Salt Lake City can rest assured that the Salt Lake City Police Department – made up of hundreds of exceptional, dedicated officers and civilians – is on the job, protecting and serving as they always have.

I am hopeful that my actions today have another important result: I want every woman in Salt Lake City government to know that we value your public service and that sexual harassment will not be tolerated. My administration has demonstrated over and over again a commitment to gender equality in the workplace. That said, I know that Salt Lake City government still has much to do to address improving equality and justice for women and minorities in our ranks. I am committed to continue taking actions to accomplish our goals of justice and equality.

On a personal note, I want to apologize again to our female officers involved in this situation. The pain and suffering you and your loved ones faced is terribly wrong, demeaning, and grossly unfair. Having your circumstances exposed through the media can only make these incidents more difficult. I hope you can find peace and solace in the years ahead.

Now, I want to address some of the statements about my leadership on this issue. Critics have suggested that I and the City have been lax and have not taken these allegations and behaviors seriously. And, they have suggested that the City has inadequate policies and procedures in place and therefore tolerates hostile and discriminatory behavior in the workplace.

If you examine the facts, especially in light of the more complete information available today, I believe you’ll find these assertions are wrong.

As your Mayor, I also want to take a moment to talk about my personal views and experience on this difficult matter.

As we have seen over the past two weeks, there is no doubt that in an election year, my opponents will seek to use any and all actions of my Administration to their political advantage. This is unfortunate. I have strengths and weaknesses, like anyone. And, as a Mayor up for reelection, I expect criticism and open airing of disagreements. However, for anyone who knows me – and some of my most vocal critics know me quite well – they know that I stand firmly and unequivocally for the just, fair, decent and equal treatment of all people. My first act as Mayor was to successfully pursue an end to discrimination that existed in our laws for the LGBT community. That commitment has helped guide our Administration from day one to today. The suggestion that I would be in any way apathetic or cavalier about sexual harassment in a City department or in any other workplace is offensive.

This is an election year, and I understand how a campaign can heighten rhetoric. Fair enough. I welcome the challenge. But our political process should focus on legitimate areas of policy and leadership differences among the mayoral candidates and not trivialize or politicize issues as serious as sexual harassment, which involve victims who deserve respect and privacy. I also expect that all of those involved in Salt Lake City mayoral politics this year will maintain civility consistent with the pledge I, and I presume other candidates, made when we filed for office.

Thank you."

Jackie Biskupski, a candidate for Salt Lake City Mayor, also issued a statement Thursday following the press conference, stating that the incident happened on Becker's watch and the "buck stops with him."

See below for the full statement:

Chief Burbank's firing is unfortunate but necessary. In many ways he has been a solid leader for the Salt Lake City Police Department. However, it has become clear that there was a pattern of misconduct on the part of his immediate subordinates that was mismanaged by him and is absolutely unacceptable. While I support the action, it is concerning to me that the Mayor has taken over a year to become fully aware of the situation. And Salt Lake residents may find it significant that this mayor is acting only after the nature, severity, and disposition of the allegations of sexual harassment have become public in press reports. One could be forgiven for asking if this is too little, too late, and is done out of political expediency in the midst of an election campaign.

Salt Lake voters must not lose sight of the fact that all this happened on Mayor Becker's watch, and the buck stops with him. If Chief Burbank was the one at fault - as the mayor has implied in recent interviews - the time to act has long since passed. It is a convenient out for the mayor to be able to make a public show of this firing and distract attention from his own inaction and failure of leadership in the matter. It is yet another reason why Salt Lake City cannot afford an absentee mayor any longer.

Charlie Luke, Salt Lake City Council Member for District 6, said the only surprise was that it took this long for Burbank to resign.

"Today's announcement about Chief Burbank's departure from the Salt Lake City Police Department comes as a surprise - not because his handling of the sexual harassment issues within his department didn't deserve his dismissal, but rather because it took so long for this to happen. Last year I when served as Council Chair I raised questions to the administration about why Findlay continued on administrative leave until his retirement. They were never satisfactorily answered. Chief Burbank's behavior was as unacceptable then as it is today."

28 comments

  • Ike Murphy

    When he defended officer Olsen killing Geist that said to me that he would have shot him also.
    Anybody who defends those actions is waste of skin and a worthless human.

  • Pamela

    He should have been gone long ago. He is a disgrace to the badge, which was clearly evidenced after the Geist shooting.

  • Ster

    GOOD !!! I’ve always said that this guy is a full on Power Control Diviate DIRT BAG !!!
    He’s a chronic and perpetual LIAR and cover-up frontman big bad (former) Police Chief.
    Good chance this crimminal bag of garbage will go to West Valley, but with them trying to upgrade their immage now, they probably would take this pile if he were the baddest puke cop on the planet !
    I think the DA needs to now dig up the dirt on this crimminal puke and send him to jail where he belongs.. I’m sure THAT would go over well…
    Later, Slime Bag

  • Monique Czech

    There are always people that disagree with how others handle situations but that doenst make them right. I feel you did a great job even though I may have had a difference of opinion on certain things but I couldnt jhave done your job. Thank you for your service and care for our city. You did a great job and it was evident that you had a heart for our city and people. Good luck to you!

  • daughter of a cop

    I have a deep respect for Chief BURBANK, I admire that he serve our city for so many years. he had the confidence to go against the mayor, and stand up for what he beleives!! It amazes me that the people that are against cops would never have the guts to go put a uniform on and put their lives on the line everyday they go to work.

      • bob

        Personally, I’m glad to see him reminded that he’s an EMPLOYEE, not an emperor.

        When the boss says “jump”, the correct response is “how high?”

    • ANOTHERBOB

      Burbank put Deputy Chief Rick Findlay on paid leave because he was close to retirement eligibility. His game plan was to let him run out the clock. Bye bye Burbank.

  • Bill

    Couldn’t he just quietly walk away with a measure of decorum and dignity, rather than acting like the arrogant, bald headed butthole that he is. Guys like this and the Deputy Chief and the Officer that was just reinstated in WVC……always make out like bandits when they are given an opportunity to resign, and are compensated……they should be physically put out on the end of someone’s boot……and receive Jack Squat. Why make out like they won the lottery for being jerks.

  • Jeff

    You people have no clue what a good chief is and becker and the waste of flesh running for mayor don’t either. The man served the city honorable and the election year dung is an insult of course so are the kind of comments here. When you get an IQ over 1 then comment

  • Jay

    Funny that Burbank is out for not handling sexual harassment yet Dale (2 week fire chief) is UNDER investigation for sexual harassment. Double standard or Becker is an idiot?

  • Jordan

    Surprised to see so much hate in the comments. Always thought Burbank was a stand up kinda guy and overall excellent Chief of Police. SLPD is one of the better/best police forces in the country and I’d attribute that to his leadership. Afraid to see what happens with him gone. =\

    • ANOTHERBOB

      Jordan – You didn’t know the inside story as seen throught the eyes of other poice chiefs. Arrogant is the common word they use to describe him.

  • Just

    Becker is a tool bag… He is taking this horrible, unfortunate event that happened to these women and spinning it into an unjust political gain for him. Notice me, notice me please – I’m making a difference!! He doesn’t care. It’s nothing personal against the Chief, or for these ladies – sadly, it’s all a political move.

  • Brad

    Chris B there has been many good things you have done for our city so thanks! The people that don’t think so are the ones that can’t think on there own, but listen to others. The are also the ones that will vote agian for Mike Lee. I would love so much to see these people that complain be put into a cops shoes for a day. Most would come home in a body bag.

    • Ster

      All you have to do is to follow his bad press, hear his cover-ups and lies and you QUICKLY form a more accurate second opinion. If you’re going to be “good” then ALWAYS be good, This puke is EXACTLY as his @nus, Resident O’Hamma …..

  • Jake

    Everyone in this article comes out looking terrible. They should all be ashamed of themselves. The victims of the harassment are getting pushed to the side while these people play politics.

  • bob

    I’m not sorry to see him go, but Becker is another matter altogether. That letter he insisted Burbank read is downright bizarre. What kind of a psycho dictates an “apology” and then tries to force another person to read it under blackmail? Becker is a freak show.

    Becker claims he contacted Burbank “multiple times” over the past year and a half regarding the harassment case. Burbank says he NEVER was contacted.

    One of them is lying. But government communications are recorded. If Becker is telling the truth he can easily prove it. Show us the emails. Am I wrong?

    I don’t know why this has to be an “either-or” matter. I think Burbank is a punk, but Becker is no better. They both need to be gone.

  • Dale McIntyre

    I am so glad that I don’t live in Salt Lake City. The mayor is a disgrace. How will he replace Chief Burbank? Will anybody with real character accept a position under a mayor who blindsides his police chief this way? What the Chief did was acceptable for a year and a half, but when it became politically advantages to do so, Mayor Becker gave Chief Burbank an unacceptable ultimatum without even indicating that there was a problem. There are words to describe that kind of behavior, but I won’t use them.

Comments are closed.