Is This The Best Police Chief In America?


In November 2011, a homeless man estimated to be in his 40s was found dead in a tent at the Occupy encampment in Salt Lake City’s Pioneer Park. He died from a mix of a drug overdose and carbon monoxide poisoning from a portable heater. The incident prompted city officials to determine that it was no longer safe for the protesters to camp in the park overnight.

Salt Lake City Police Chief Chris Burbank, 46, was in charge of the eviction. But Burbank took a decidedly different approach from his counterparts in other cities who used aggressive, confrontational measures to oust their own Occupy encampments.

Burbank showed up at the camp and talked to the protesters, in some cases one on one. He explained that they’d need to start leaving the park at night, although they could come back during the day. He said that when the time came for them leave, they could do so peacefully, or they could choose to be arrested. He even asked them how they’d like their arrests to take place, in case they wanted the TV and newspaper cameras to photograph them giving themselves up for their cause.

Unconventional has been Burbank’s modus operandi since he was appointed chief of police in 2006. Be it the drug war, immigration, or the handling of protests, Burbank’s mantra to his officers is the same: Use the minimum amount of force necessary to resolve the situation. Or as Burbank puts it, “It’s not can I do it, but should I do it?”

When it came time to evict the Occupy protesters in Pioneer Park, then, Burbank and his officers wore their standard, everyday uniforms, not riot gear, as police units in other cities had. Burbank also made sure he was first on the scene — that the first person the protesters saw was the one with whom they had already had a conversation.

Most of the 200 protesters left voluntarily. Some took advantage of Burbank’s offer to have his officers help with their belongings. Nineteen chose to be arrested. There was no violence, no rioting and little anger. And so as images of violent clashes between Occupiers and police in other cities made headlines across the country, in Utah, some Occupiers even praised Burbank for the way he had handled their eviction. It’s one reason why the Salt Lake Tribune named Burbank its 2011 “Utahn of the Year.”

“I just don’t like the riot gear,” Burbank says. “Some say not using it exposes my officers to a little bit more risk. That could be, but risk is part of the job. I’m just convinced that when we don riot gear, it says ‘throw rocks and bottles at us.’ It invites confrontation. Two-way communication and cooperation are what’s important. If one side overreacts, then it all falls apart.”

Is This The Best Police Chief In America? [continued]


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  • Wickwire

    Chris Burbank for president!

    • Rudl Roop

      That is to overdo it, is it not?

      • livefree1200cc

        haha – gotta be better than the trash they have us vote for :)

  • jag uffluc

    Another story never even mentioned by the MSM during all the rabble rousing over the Occupy movement. Nice to see an example of a LEO leader with common sense who is willing to abide by his oath of office and expect the same from his employees,

  • Fighting Grandma

    I had a deputy sheriff show up at my house because my roommate made a distress call and then hung up. The sheriff’s department immediately called back and kept me on the phone util the deputy could arrive. This deputy was an angel! He spent at least 20 minutes talking to my distressed friend who thought suicide was a good idea and by the time he left, my roommate was calm and stabilized. Can you just imagine how safe we all would be if we were surrounded by police chiefs and sheriffs of Chris Burbank’s caliber and the deputy that helped my friend? Game Over for the thugs with badges, don’t ya think?

  • Rudl Roop

    There actually is intelligence (as inside the head) in law enforcement? Yup – suspected, now proven and just great! Serve and Protect! Back to the roots.
    Not something for lame street media to report on of course. A cozy situation between citizens and officials is all against the interests of cabal. The threat of terrorists and the ever readiness for doomsday, is important. They have bough millions of hollow point bullets and pepper spray from here to the moon – to keep the public calm. The Ministry of Eternal Happiness a work.

  • Concerned

    As a retired law enforcement executive, I agree with the Chief. In fact, I recently had a discussion with a friend and active COP about this very thing, the Militarization of today’s civilian police community’s, local, county, state and federal. I opined that this situation was becoming alarming, seemed overly zealous and quite possibly dangerous in the future. What I suggested during our brief chat was what i believe is needed today and soon. An Institution like the Northwestern University Traffic Institute (one of the greatest law enforcement training facility’s in America) should undertake a Nation in depth study of this new phenomenon. The have the professionals needed to get the task accomplished and the prestige and credentials necessary to lend credence to the finished report. The study should among other criteria answer the questions; when did the militarized image of the police begin, how has it grown so rapidly, who is supporting it and why, how has it changed people’s view of the police, is it needed to the degree it has become, are there controls as to such groups conduct, mission and procedures and are they sufficient and others. The study should be open, frank and especially constructive in its scope. Participants must be recruited from many walks of life and professions. Reviews of actual case situations should be evaluated so as to learn the positives as well as the negatives of actions taken across the country. Public input is a must and just as important as the opinions of the law enforcement community. Law Enforcement professionals should take the lead here. They own it to the communities they serve. It is time to take a good hard, honest and bold look at this.