Chris Burbank, the police chief of Salt Lake City, Utah, resigned Thursday after he came under intense pressure over the handling of a sexual harassment claim involving a deputy police chief.
Announcing the resignation, Salt Lake City Mayor Ralph Becker said, according to the Associated Press (AP), that Burbank -- who had served nine years in the force -- did not follow instructions to demote deputy chief Rick Findlay. He added that Burbank also did not introduce training to protect other officers from harassment.
"I am hopeful that my actions today have another important result: I want every woman in Salt Lake City government to know that we value your public service and that sexual harassment will not be tolerated," Becker said in a statement, according to the AP.
Deputy Chief Mike Brown has been named the interim chief after Burbank’s resignation.
Burbank, reportedly said, that he chose to step down because he was asked to read a prewritten public apology to avoid being fired. He defended the accusations and said that he had placed Findlay on an administrative leave in November 2013 when he heard about the allegations, while internal investigations into the claim continued. He added that he did not demote Findlay because he wanted him removed from service. Findlay later resigned in June 2014.
"This decision is not in the best interest of the public, it's election politics and it's extremely unfortunate," Burbank said, according to the Salt Lake Tribune, a local newspaper, adding: "I firmly believe that the police department and myself personally have handled sexual harassment with zero tolerance."
Sgt. Robin Heiden, former Lt. Melody Gray and Officer Tiffany Commagere are the female officers who claimed they were harassed. They said that Findlay had shared pictures of Heiden and Gray in bikinis, and a nude picture of Commagere, with other officers. They also claimed that the photographs were taken from Gray’s phone without her permission.
The women’s attorney, Ed Brass, said that the three "had no input in the decision-making process," involving Thursday’s developments. Brass added, according to the Salt Lake Tribune, that Burbank’s resignation "does not correct what happened in the past. It may demonstrate on the part of this administration an attitude that this will not be tolerated in the future. It doesn't change what's already happened."
Although a lawsuit has not been filed yet, Brass said, according to the AP, that his clients now plan to file a civil rights suit against the city, Burbank and Findlay because a deadline for the city to respond to their claim notice has expired.