Chris Burbank Statement about Resignation as Chief of Salt Lake City Police Department

The good in policing is found in human beings and in all that makes us human; empathy, compassion, understanding and love.  The highest compliment I have been paid during my career was a comment made by a gentleman following my remarks at the University of Utah, “You are nothing like a police chief.”  

I say this not because I don’t believe my profession has numerous outstanding individuals throughout the nation but because I have always wanted to be seen as something greater than the uniform.

Mindless bureaucratic adherence has led us into the crisis we find ourselves in today.  Communities across the country have lost trust, individuals of color are disproportionally being incarcerated, heroin has reached epidemic levels and poverty has been criminalized.

For years I have been asking recruits to be more than a cop, “Be the good person you are today.”  This, I believe, is the basis for character and effective community leadership.           

After 25 years in law enforcement, all of which were served in Salt Lake City, I have resigned as the Chief of Police. The events leading to my resignation as are unfortunate and disappointing, but I have always stood for what I believe to be right, and am confident I did so in this instance.

At 3:00 Thursday afternoon, I was summoned for a meeting in Mayor Becker’s office. I was given an ultimatum: deliver a pre-written apology for my handling of a sexual harassment case within my department, resign, or be terminated. I was required to make my decision on the spot, no talking to my family, no time for contemplation.  The written apology, crafted by the Mayor’s office, did not represent what I believed to be true or ethical, so I chose to retire.

After 25 years of service, disagreement or not I believe I deserved more respect from the Mayor during this process. I expect my employees treat criminals under arrest with more respect than was afforded me by the Mayor yesterday. I also question that if policy and not politics was driving this, why I have never spoken with Ralph personally about this issue prior to one week ago.  

During my nine years as the Chief of Police, I have always taken responsibility for the decisions made by the department. I firmly believe that the police department and I have handled sexual harassment with zero tolerance. I have always made clear that the actions of my former deputy chief were inappropriate and ultimately cost him his job. I used the same policy and procedure established for disciplinary action concerning DC Findlay that I’ve used in every case before and since.

The direction from the Salt Lake City Mayor’s office, the Human Resource department, the Civilian Review Board, and the City Attorney’s office was that this offense did not warrant termination. I absolutely disagreed with the direction of demotion that David Everett was insisting on.  Not only would this open the city to prolonged appeals, it lacked integrity because it was simply vindictive and not in the bounds outlined by prior precedent, policy and practice.

I instead chose to keep him on administrative leave and out of the workplace, which I felt was the least disruptive to my organization and most respectful to the women involved. According to state law, retirement benefits would have remained at the same level regardless of the decision to demote or place on administrative leave.

I am not a politician. I am a public servant and am proud of my contributions to this community. I am proud of the relationship the Salt Lake City Police Department has with those they serve and have every confidence that that relationship will continue. I love Salt Lake City; I live here and am committed to continue to change the dialogue in this nation concerning law enforcement.