"Ringing the dinner bell in Mexico" is how one reader responded when the Salt Lake Tribune announced on December 24th, 2011 that they named Salt Lake City Police Chief Chris Burbank "Utahn Of The Year" for 2011, even though he only finished fifth in the Tribune's online poll with seven votes. Readers overwhelmingly preferred former BYU basketball player Jimmer Freddette with 199 of the 294 total votes cast.
The Tribune seems quite impressed with Burbank's public relations skills. Burbank and his officers handled a couple of public demonstrations with tact and efficiency, including the arrest of 26 activists who protested the guilty verdict against environmentalist Tim DeChristopher in July 2011, as well as the eviction of the Occupy Salt Lake protesters from Pioneer Park after one of them was found dead.
On the flip side, the Tribune chose to disregard Burbank's kid gloves approach towards illegal immigrants. Eli Cawley, president of the Utah Minuteman Project, which opposes illegal immigration, calls Burbank “a stooge of the Mexican smuggling cartels” and calls him "Sanctuary Burbank", although he acknowledges that Burbank can be charming and well-spoken.
Chief Burbank hasn't merely criticized Utah's illegal immigration laws; he publicly vowed not to enforce one of them. When SB81 took effect in 2009, Burbank said SLCPD would opt out of enforcing it, which makes one wonder what other laws Burbank would not have them enforce. Chief Burbank has had a particularly contentious relationship with some Utah state lawmakers, not only Rep. Mike Noel, who drafted SB81, but also Rep. Chris Herrod, who openly accused Burbank of lying about illegal immigration and minimizing crime by illegals in an e-mail posted to the Utah Senate Site in July 2009. Furthermore, Burbank himself poured more gasoline on the fire during a hearing before the U.S. House Judiciary Civil Rights Subcommittee in June 2010 when he criticized the state legislators who passed SB81 by describing their efforts as "an obviously xenophobic agenda" using "racist rhetoric."
Of course, it should be no surprise that Burbank played the race card during that hearing. After all, it was the progressive extremist mayor of Salt Lake, Rocky Anderson, who appointed Burbank as chief back in 2006. This is the same Rocky Anderson who showed his "respect" for the office of President of the United States by leading an antiwar demonstration in Salt Lake on the same day George W. Bush paid an official visit to Utah. Anderson wasn't about to appoint an American patriot to office.
Public reaction to Burbank's selection as Utahn of the Year, as expressed in 341 comments to the Tribune, is sharply divided. Here are samples from both sides (after the jump):
rationalskeptic December 25th:
Burbank has done some pretty interesting things and is one of the few police officers I respect. His positions clearly reflect many years of experience and thinking on the matter. Also, he has an incredibly good sense of what his job is, and more importantly, what it shouldn't be.
He was smart to stand up to the ridiculous immigration laws our state was debating at the time. Obviously he has a better sense of constitutionality than even our own lawmakers.
Lots of people think that because of his stances on the political and practical aspects of our anti-immigration laws that he is soft on immigration. That is a clearly ignorant opinion. This man has gone after immigrant crime fairly heavily, doing things like shutting down identity theft rings and putting illegal immigrants who have committed crimes that fall under his state granted powers in jail.
Good choice Trib!
John Pace - December 25th:
He [Burbank] IS enforcing the law. At least HE knows what it is -- unlike so many here. Like, for example, the part where getting ICE training to undertake additional immigration enforcement is, wait for it: OPTIONAL.
And terrible public policy.
pumped_up_kicks - December 25th:
giving this guy the sltrib's "utahn of the year award" is like ringing a dinner bell all across mexico. they can just follow the sound until burbank and his merry bunch of minions welcome them "home."
Trollhunter2011 - December 25th:
He should get CHUMP of the year. He will go down to Pioneer Park and evict Americans who thought they had a point and reason for protesting! Even if I thought they were wrong, they had a Constitutional Right to do so! But he won't go to the west side barrios where there are hundreds if not thousands of Illegal Aliens who are criminals!! then round them off to ICE and deporting them which is his JOB!!! I think the silent majority needs to protest outside the police office and Mayor Becker's office to demand Burbank's resignation or firing !!
whyman - December 25th:
My agenda is very clear. I noticed that Israel has the same agenda. In fact, in the news, there is an article where an illegal alien in Israel raped a woman on a beach while two other illegal aliens watched.
Contempt for one law leads to contempt for others. This is witnessed by illegal alien stealing the SS numbers of 50,000 Utah children alone. Burbank did nothing, as did Shurtleff. Anther witness to this is 1300 illegal aliens on the welfare rolls and no prosecutions except of those that released the list.
A Chief of Police that actually enforced all laws, rather than hand picked laws, would have been all over this as one would have a high probability of occurring in SLC in one instance and did occur in SLC in the other.
You also need to understand that this country will only support so many people. Preferably the people that we let in are educated and can do something for the country. We have enough of our own people that do not finish high school and don't have the skills for better paying work. Illegal aliens take the work from those people. Illegal aliens also take spots from those that go through the legal process to come to this country. How? We cannot adjust our immigration quota's upward because of the illegal immigration problem. Then you have the simple fact that only about 5 percent of all jobs in this country require a degree at all.
A police chief that chooses to ignore illegal immigration when he will not ignore bank robberies, or bank fraud, or interstate communications fraud, or child pornography is choosing which laws, esp. federal laws, he will obey because all four are federal laws.