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Race Matters, Friends reacts to police chief’s leave

Advocacy group Race Matters, Friends gave a response to news that Columbia Police Department Chief Ken Burton was put on paid administrative leave on Thursday.

“While we cannot yet know precisely why he has been let go, we can all guess that Chief Burton’s failure and unwillingness to lead CPD into department-wide Community Oriented Policing (COP), as well as his disparagement of the implementation of COP may be central to his being put on leave,” the group said in an official statement on Friday. “We believe his failure to respond to the growing racial inequities reflected annually in the Vehicle Stop Report (VSR) data is grounds to question his competence at best, or simple insubordination.”

Race Matters, Friends has been at the heart of much of the criticism of Burton. Group member Tracy Wilson-Kleekamp said Thursday that she hopes Burton will follow Matthes’ lead and resign.

“It’s time for Columbia to stop being teenagers on a joy ride. This is an old town but I think our leadership over time has been very male-dominated and stuck in their ways,” Wilson-Kleekamp said.

Burton’s paid leave was announced on Thursday morning. The city said Deputy Chief Jill Schlude will be Acting Police Chief.

Columbia City spokesman Steve Sapp gave no details on the reason for the leave, citing legal protection of personnel records. Burton does not have a contract. According to Sapp, the position of police chief is unclassified, and the only position that does have a contract is city manager.

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