A Salt Lake Tribune article entitled "Police chief at odds with Utah lawmakers over immigration" indicates that the immigration issue is making Salt Lake City Police Chief Chris Burbank the most hated public official in Utah. The reaction directed against him, most of it from the right, equals or exceeds the reaction directed from the left against Senator Chris Buttars (R-West Jordan) over the "black baby" remark in 2008.
Part of the problem is that Chief Burbank has publicly stated that his officers would not enforce Utah SB81, primarily because it would detract from their other policing duties. SB81 allows cities to opt out. But what really has inflamed people is Burbank's extremist rhetoric in describing those who want stiffer immigration enforcement. Burbank hasn't merely criticized Arizona's new immigration law; he's characterized it as “evil” and “racial profiling”, even though the law, SB1070, forbids racial profiling. And during a hearing before the U.S. House Judiciary Civil Rights Subcommittee in mid-June, Burbank told them that profiling will only get worse in communities where police are required to enforce immigration laws. In written remarks submitted to the committee, Burbank also criticized state legislators who passed SB81 and who are expected to introduce another bill next year similar to Arizona SB1070, describing their efforts as "an obviously xenophobic agenda" advanced by legislators using "racist rhetoric."
Basically, the chief law enforcement officer of Salt Lake City tarnished his badge by stooping to extremist partisan rhetoric, engaging in an orgy of name-calling. Supremely unprofessional behavior on Burbank's part. Predictably, the dam broke. The public started inundating both Chief Burbank and Mayor Ralph Becker with e-mails, most of them critical. Some were overtly hostile, liberally sprinkled with f-bombs. Two-thirds of the e-mails came from outside Salt Lake City. Here's a couple of examples of the more printable e-mails:
“Your job is to enforce the laws and shut the hell up. I can see now that we need to get you removed from office since you are an illegal-alien lover.” – Troy Larson
“The vast majority of home invasions, carjackings, robberies, abuse cases and murders are committed by those of Hispanic descent. Guess you have been blinded by your ‘diversity’ training.” – Dan Schilaty
“Many, many more people hate you than like you for your stance on illegal immigration. I live in WVC (West Valley City, aka little Mexico) and am sick of the trash that’s moving into a once fine neighborhood.” - Brent B.
Burbank notes about a third of Salt Lake's population is Hispanic and would be “subject to inappropriate police scrutiny” under an Arizona-like law. He finds the criticism he faces disheartening because illegal immigration is a civil violation of federal law and has nothing to do with criminal activity. The vitriol “is motivated by racial prejudice.”
Chris Burbank has been accused of pandering to Hispanics, as this video of a Telemundo interview would seem to verify. But the people of Salt Lake weren't pissed off enough at Burbank to deny his department a new $125 million cop shop during the November 2009 elections. However, Burbank has now pissed off some people who can inflict some damage upon him, his department, and his city; namely, several state lawmakers. Burbank is already on Rep. Chris Herrod's spit list for having allegedly lied to Herrod about immigration statistics back in July 2009.
House Speaker Dave Clark (R-Santa Clara) has also sounded off. "Anytime you start throwing spears with inflammatory names, it does create problems...If the mayor is not stepping up and speaking out [against Burbank], I would take that as a passive sanction.” Ralph Becker is indeed standing firmly behind Burbank; Becker downplays the confrontational tone, saying the broken set of federal immigration policies spurs highly charged emotions. And two weeks ago, Rep. Carl Wimmer (R-Herriman), a leader of the influential Patrick Henry Caucus, characterized Burbank's statements before Congress as race-baiting, criticizing Burbank for not offering any solutions.
These lawmakers have ways of making life harder for Salt Lake. For example, they could suddenly decide that any requests for state funding from Salt Lake could warrant "extra scrutiny" (Translation: Either get Burbank to pipe down or we'll put the city on short rations come budget time). It's one thing for Burbank to say his department can't implement SB81 because it is not an effective use of manpower for them. It's another thing altogether for Salt Lake's chief law enforcement officer to take public partisan political positions and engage in juvenile name-calling of those who don't share his politics. His partisanship casts aspersions upon the integrity of the entire police department. Becker needs to shut him up.