clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

S.L. Mayor Ralph Becker defends police chief ouster in letter to residents

Salt Lake City Mayor Ralph Becker
Salt Lake City Mayor Ralph Becker
Chelsey Allder, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — Mayor Ralph Becker in a letter Sunday defended his actions that led to the resignation of Salt Lake City's police chief after what he called an emotional week.

Becker wrote in the email to constituents that he and former Chief Chris Burbank had a fundamental disagreement about how to address sexual harassment issues in the police department.

"Those who believe this was done because we are in an election year do not know me, and I invite them to explore the documentation and information the city has provided on this issue here," the mayor wrote.

"I won’t back down when it comes to ensuring a safe workplace for every single city employee, and will continue to take action to prevent further victimization of our employees."

Becker forced Burbank to step down last Thursday in the wake of a pending sexual harassment lawsuit.

Three female officers reported sexual harassment by a superior officer in 2013, which the women say left them fearing retribution for months. Becker said despite his clear directive, Burbank failed to properly discipline Deputy Chief Rick Findlay.

The women filed a notice of intent with Becker and Salt Lake City in October to purse a civil rights complaint against the city, the police department, Findlay and Burbank. The lawsuit has not been filed.

Burbank said he was forced out because of election-year politics. Becker, a Democrat, is seeking his third term as mayor.

In the letter, Becker said Burbank's public statements and private conversations the past few weeks showed the two would continue to disagree about how city leaders should address sexual harassment in the future.

"Ultimately, the police chief is accountable to the mayor. His continued disagreement with me over this important matter made his service to Salt Lake City untenable," he wrote.

Becker also praised Burbank, writing that he served the community well on many fronts. He described the former chief as an "icon for justice" beyond public safety who did what he believed was right to improve the lives of Salt Lake residents.

Email: romboy@deseretnews.com, Twitter: dennisromboy; DNewsPolitics