Some Columbia residents believe Police Chief Ken Burton should be the next to go from city leadership.
Burton was sharply criticized alongside City Manager Mike Matthes at Monday’s Columbia City Council meeting for proposed changes to the department’s community policing programs. Matthes announced his resignation the next day but did not give a reason for his departure.
Various groups have called for Burton’s resignation before. The group Race Matters, Friends confronted Matthes and Burton in 2016 over their response to a state vehicle stops report that showed disproportionate stops of black drivers when compared to the driving population.
Around the same time, Burton’s attorney told the city council that he would “consider monetary offers” from the city to leave when he believed Mayor Brian Treece was trying to gather support for his ouster.
Burton told ABC 17 News on Wednesday that he was not considering leaving the city in light of Matthes’ resignation.
Police chiefs have a more detailed legal process of removal when compared to other city employees. Changes were made in 2013 to bolster the process, the first changes made to the set of laws since 1939. The city must notify the chief within 10 days of a special hearing to prove “just cause” exists to fire them. That could be done by proving one of six points, including alcohol or drug abuse, insubordination or acting “in a manner inconsistent with the interests of the public or the chief’s governing body.” Two-thirds of that body must vote to fire them.
The Missouri Municipal League said two cities have gone through the process – Leadington in 2014 and Sturgeon in 2017. Both led to lawsuits against the cities.