A Fife police lieutenant has resigned after being investigated and facing discipline for the third time in a year, this time for making an inappropriate remark with religious overtones at an anti-harassment training session.
Lt. Doug Burrus was the last of three veteran officers to resign from the Fife Police Department after a string of investigations last year found misconduct or policy violations by the men. City leaders said Feb. 27 that they were launching a police improvement plan, including an outside review by law enforcement, a community advisory panel and the pursuit of national accreditation.
Burrus, a 19-year veteran of the department, was suspended twice last year. He resigned effective Feb. 29, according to a settlement agreement with the City of Fife released to The News Tribune last week.
Based “on advice from his medical practitioner,” Burrus said he was no longer able to perform the functions of a police officer, according to the agreement signed by Burrus and City Manager Dave Zabell.
The city agreed to pay Burrus $5,000 in lieu of temporary disability benefits he could have received if he had remained on the force.
The latest investigation found Burrus made an inappropriate comment to a subordinate officer when that officer arrived for anti-harassment training Dec. 6 at City Hall with his head freshly shaven.
“Hey (officer’s name), did you join the Mormon Church?” Burrus asked, according to the investigative report by Fife police commander Tim Floyd.
Burrus had recently returned from a 10-day suspension when the incident occurred.
Burrus said he did not recall making the comment, according to the report obtained by The News Tribune through a public records request.
But Floyd said four of 11 people interviewed who were present recalled Burrus making the remark. They found the comment inappropriate but not personally offensive, Floyd wrote.
The report does not explain why Burrus connected a shaved head with the Mormon Church, formally called the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
A detective expressed amazement at the remark, given the issues Burrus had been dealing with during the past year.
Burrus was suspended for three days in April after an investigation showed he didn’t follow through on an employee’s complaints that she’d been sexually harassed for nearly a decade by another Fife police lieutenant, who resigned.
In November, Burrus was suspended again – this time for 10 days – for the way he said the word “cockfighting” in front of two female dispatchers and a male officer, records state.
The settlement agreement with Burrus was reached after Zabell started disciplinary proceedings and met with Burrus Feb. 3. The agreement said the city and Burrus would both benefit if he resigned “in exchange” for the conditions of the settlement. Burrus was to continue on sick leave until the end of the month, then be paid the full value of what remained in his sick leave bank, according to the agreement.
The internal investigation began after a detective who witnessed the remark told a lieutenant about it.
In the 93-page investigative report, Assistant Police Chief Mark Mears determined Burrus violated the city’s harassment and supervisory policies and police policies regarding unbecoming conduct, respect to others and inappropriate conduct.
Zabell said the investigation never reached a conclusion because Burrus resigned before a disciplinary hearing was held. The settlement agreement continued that hearing until Feb. 29, unless Burrus gave final approval to the terms of his departure two days earlier.
Burrus, who could not be reached for comment for this story, gave that approval.
Zabell told The News Tribune Burrus served the Fife community for more than 19 years, “and did so very well.”
“You can’t argue the fact he made a few mistakes,” Zabell said.
Steve Maynard: 253-597-8647