Former Salt Lake City Police Chief Chris Burbank is determined to erode systematic biases in the nation’s justice system and policing policies he says are ineffective. Burbank has taken a job with the national Center for Policing Equity as Director of Law Enforcement Engagement. He’ll be responsible for leading ongoing research that’s made possible with the newly created National Justice Database. It’s the first effort track police stops and use of force.
“I started saying about three years ago that Salt Lake City will be the last place that I’m the police chief because I think this is the next step,” Burbank says. “I always wanted to have a wider influence in my profession. It gave me a tremendous amount of opportunities and I want to give back a little and improve it.”
Burbank maintains incarceration for individuals with drug, alcohol and mental health has never been successful. And he says he’s convinced that zero-tolerance policing has led to the racial, ethnic and socioeconomic inequities in the justice system, as well as public dissatisfaction with policing in America.
“We’re not at war with any neighborhood in the United States,” Burbank says. “We’re not at war with people who use drugs. What we’re trying to do is solve society’s problems. And not always is arrest and heavy-handed policing the right answer to that.”
The Center for Policing Equity is based in Los Angeles but Burbank says he’ll be stationed in Salt Lake City. Burbank resigned from the Salt Lake City Police Department this summer after a disagreement with Salt Lake City Mayor Ralph Becker over how Burbank handled a sexual harassment case within the police department.