Mayor Becker: "I Wanted to Give the Chief the Benefit of the Doubt"
A day after Salt Lake City Police Chief Chris Burbank resigned from the department, Mayor Ralph Becker shared more details about the events that lead to the chief’s departure.
Becker says he gave Burbank the benefit of the doubt up until the day the chief resigned. At three O’clock on Thursday Becker asked Burbank to make a decision: Publicly apologize to the police officers who’d been sexually harassed by former Deputy Police Chief Findlay and Salt Lake City, do nothing and face termination or resign. At 3:45, Becker announced Burbank had chosen to resign.
“And I was prepared, that regardless of the outcome of our decision that we would walk out either together or I would walk out and announce the results of the meeting,” Becker said.
Burbank declined to read a prepared apology presented to him by the mayor. Becker says his office pressed Burbank for months to demote Deputy Police Chief Rick Findlay following sustained allegations of sexual harassment. The Mayor says it became clear to him that Burbank was unwilling to follow his orders.
“If I have a fault in this matter, it is that I wanted to give the chief the benefit of the doubt,” Becker said. “And I believe the chief with his incredible public service here deserves that.”
Speaking to reporters Thursday, Burbank said he made the right decision despite the disagreement with Mayor Becker. Findlay remained on administrative leave until he retired with full benefits.
“Ultimately that responsibility lies with me.,” Burbank said. “I have always taken that responsibility with great pride and with great care and have absolutely never allowed sexual harassment in the police department and when I found out it was dealt with appropriately.”
Becker told KUER that he stands by his actions. He has appointed Deputy Chief Mike Brown to lead the department until he selects a new chief.
In a statement Burbank released late Friday, he said he disagreed with the mayor's insistence that he demote Findlay. He said it would open the city to prolonged appeals and lacked integrity because it was 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." The statement reads.
"According to state law, retirement benefits would have remained at the same level regardless of the decision to demote or place on administrative leave."