Strike 2 for Fife lieutenant
A Fife police lieutenant has been suspended for the second time in eight months, this time for making inappropriate comments with sexual overtones to three subordinate employees, according to documents released to The News Tribune on Tuesday.
Lt. Doug Burrus was suspended for 10 days for the way he said the word “cockfighting” in front of two female dispatchers and a male officer, according to records released to the newspaper in response to a public records request.
The Fife police chief originally considered giving Burrus a longer suspension and demoting him but changed his mind.
Burrus made the questionable comments in September after a Fife resident called police about a suspected prowler at her house.
Burrus told dispatchers the resident had a history of repeatedly calling police, including one call at least 12 years ago when she complained about her neighbors’ cockfighting. Burrus recalled the woman saying the word “with the emphasis on cock.” Records indicate that Burrus’ comments initiated an off-color exchange with the two dispatchers.
According to an outside investigation conducted by Lakewood police, “Burrus fully admits making the comments, but says he was only repeating verbatim what a reporting party to an animal complaint had said to him.”
Neither dispatcher said she was offended by Burrus’ remarks, but the male officer told the investigator the comments were unprofessional.
The officer’s name was blacked out in the report released to The News Tribune. The officer said he “was upset by this because of all of the recent internal investigations and publicity that a supervisor would be making such comments.”
Burrus, who has worked for Fife police for 17 years, could not be reached for comment.
He was previously suspended for three days in April after a separate investigation showed he didn’t follow through on an employee’s complaints that she’d been sexually harassed by a police officer for nearly a decade. Documents released later said that officer was Lt. Jeff Westover, who resigned in January 2011.
The past year has been a time of frequent scrutiny and discipline brought upon the 60-member department. Detective Roy Shane Farnworth was investigated for driving drunk and wrecking his unmarked patrol car. He resigned in May.
In October, an outside investigation concluded that allegations of improper conduct made against Fife Police Chief Brad Blackburn and two members of his command staff either did not happen or could not be proven.
Blackburn said in an April memo he allowed Burrus to take his previous three-day suspension by using vacation leave “in recognition of the financial hardship that the suspension without pay would cause his family.”
For the latest suspension, Blackburn said he permitted Burrus to take the first five days as leave from his vacation bank to minimize the hardship.
Blackburn said he will require Burrus to serve the second five days this month for his remarks as time off without pay.
“We needed to deliver a strong message to him that’s not acceptable,” Blackburn said Tuesday. “In the progression (of discipline), I think it’s fair.”
Blackburn originally proposed suspending Burrus for 15 days and demoting him to patrol officer. But after meeting with Burrus and Fife police guild representatives, the chief pared back the suspension and gave Burrus another chance as a supervising lieutenant.
“If there is further poor judgment similar to what has been shown in both matters,” Blackburn said, “it shall result in further discipline, possible demotion, and up to and including termination.”
Steve Maynard: 253-597-8647 email@example.com blog.thenewstribune.com/polibuzz