Columbia Police Captains now "at will" employees

Sep 18, 2012

The Columbia City Council has approved an amendment that changes the status of Columbia's Police Captains from classified to unclassified employees. Under the new classification the police captains lose their right to due process and are now "at will" employees under Police Chief Kenneth Burton.

Kevin Ahlbrand is the President of the Fraternal Order of Police. He says the council made a mistake in changing to system that gives more control to the police chief.

"In all organizations like this you need to be able to have free thinkers. And I think, in this case, the captains will be afraid of bucking the system of giving an opinion different from the chief. And rightly they should, because he can let them go for no reason whatsoever,” Ahlbrand said.

City Manager Mike Matthes says he proposed the reclassification in response to a consultant report received this year that recommended reviewing the Police Chief and senior command staff to determine their leadership capacity for their offices.

"I recommend it whole-heartedly. It is fairly common throughout the country and the state of Missouri in law enforcement and I think it is a tool to help us improve on that recommendation,” Matthes said.

A few council members suggested taking this item off the amendment to have a closed door council session to discuss it in more detail. But later the council members approved the plan in a 5-2 vote.