We asked our "Political Insiders" panel to weigh in on the ouster of Police Chief Chris Burbank and how that will play in the Salt Lake City Mayoral race.
Mayor Ralph Becker forced Burbank out of office following his handling of a sexual harassment case in the department. Most of the Democrats (70%) on our panel and our readers (70%) disagree with Becker's actions. 48% of the Republicans who responded also said they did not agree with Becker's actions.
We also asked our panel and readers how the controversy might affect this year's mayoral contest. All of the groups we surveyed across the board say it will make voters less likely to support Becker this year.
Selected anonymous comments:
"I agree that Burbank should have been fired. I do feel, however, that it should have been done much sooner."
"Becker's decision to fire Burbank absolutely reeks of political expediency. If Becker thought this was the right thing to do, he should have done it last year. The Mayor now faces a very tight re-election race – and quite frankly, Salt Lake City residents may be better off without him."
"Burbank definitely screwed up with regard to the sexual harassment cases, there's no question about that. But his 20 years of solid service, including his compassion for the immigrant community and his diplomatic handling of Occupy Salt Lake, means he should have been given another chance. I think this WILL affect the mayor race, but won't make a difference in the votes. Some people will be more likely to support Becker, some people will be less likely to support Becker. It'll be a wash."
"The truth is Burbank was insubordinate to Becker's administration for years. Burbank's way or the highway."
"The major complaint I hear about Ralph Becker is that he's acting like a king instead of like a mayor. This action reinforces that point of view. It would have been better to fire the police chief through proper channels, and without the apparently unusual penalties, instead of at a public press conference."
"Good police chiefs are hard to find – jettisoning this one in what looks like a political ploy can only hurt Becker."
"Becker once again has proved that he acts before he thinks. What a disgrace!"
"Sophomoric move by Becker. He probably didn't understand the respect & appreciation the general public held for Burbank."
"It's become a political hot potato. I believe the Mayor did the right thing…Chief Burbank should have handled the situation much better and much sooner. But, the Mayor's timing should have been better. I am sure it will be used against him."
"There are clumsy ways of getting to the right solution, and smooth ways of making poor decisions. This fracas pulled from the worst of these worlds and appears clumsy and ill-considered."
"If Becker were really serious about the issue, he would have dealt with the issue, either forcing Burbank to fire the employee or, fire Burbank himself, a year ago. Firing Burbank so late, after the fact, is, in a word, lame."
"Sadly, Burbank forgot that the citizens and their interest are important to policing the police. Even worse it took Becker to feel the heat before he did anything. Either way Becker will be reelected."
"I am NOT a Burbank fan, at all. But if Becker was going to oust him over it, he should have handled it better. Better yet, not at all, considering the circumstances. This smacks of political posturing by Becker and will likely backfire on him."
"A completely political move. Becker and his advisors should be ashamed."
"In the short term plenty of tongues will be a waggin' in capital city's political echo chamber but 90 percent of city residents probably don't even know who Burbank is."
"Timing is everything in politics and, right or wrong, this has the smell of opportunism."
"It will have some effect because there are not a lot of clear issues out there."