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Posted at 12:48 PM ET, 08/09/2011

Chief strips top D.C. police official of command

A high-ranking D.C. police official who publicly sparred with Chief Cathy L. Lanier over celebrity escorts during a city council hearing in June has been relieved of command responsiblities, Lanier said Tuesday.

Lanier made the decision regarding then-Commander Hilton Burton, based on “a review of command decisions, including several critical incidents, and a recommendation from [his] supervising Assistant Chief,” she said in a press release.

Assistant Chief Lamar D. Greene, who was Burton’s supervising chief, did not immediately return a call seeking comment.

Burton had been head of the department’s special operations division since May 2010. Officers from the division gave actor Charlie Sheen a controversial high-speed escort from Dulles International Airport to a performance at DAR Constitution Hall in April.

During the four-hour council hearing in June, Burton and Lanier disagreed regarding police escorts. Burton said it had been common practice to escort celebrities for at least the past nine years and shared a list of 47 trips. That period would have included some of the time in which Lanier headed that division.

Lanier said that while police have escorted dignitaries and some sports teams for public safety reasons, it was not policy to escort celebrities. During the hearing, she presented copies of some requests that had been rejected during her tenure and said it was clear policy not to squire celebrities who were in town.

Escorts done for sports teams or performers during some big events including a presidential inaugural, Lanier said at the hearing, were done for public safety reasons related to crowd control.

Lanier said at the hearing that internal affairs would investigate several older trips for entertainers that appeared on Burton’s list to determine why they had been done.

Burton said in a Tuesday interview that he believed his demotion was retaliation for his appearance before the Council.

Greene cited several reasons for the demotion — including his handling of barricade situations and his handling of administrative matters over the last four months — when he informed Burton of it Monday, Burton said in an interview, but not the Council appearance.

Lanier “has lost confidence in my ability to lead,” Burton said he was told. Lanier did not deliver the demotion personally, Burton said.

Lanier’s release did not specify the incidents in question. She did not provide specifics about the demotion during a Tuesday press conference.

In January 2008, Burton — who had been commander of the 4th Police District — was transferred to a post as an inspector in the department’s professional development bureau.

Burton had been accused of using his department e-mail and cellphone to send a woman sexual messages. In a separate incident, he was accused of sending inappropriate messages while working, using his personal account, authorities said.

Burton has sued the city for compensation and damages in connection with the 2008 transfer and, as part of a separate complaint, is one of several officers who allege gender-based discrimination within the department.

Burton is now a captain assigned to the D.C. Police & Fire Clinic, he said in an interview. The clinic conducts physicals for new officers and evaluates injured officers.

This item has been updated since it was first published.

Post staffers Allison Klein, Theola Labbe-DeBose and Mary Pat Flaherty contributed to this story.

By Washington Post Staff  |  12:48 PM ET, 08/09/2011

Categories:  The District

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