Palo Alto names new police chief

September 17, 2009 7:44:32 PM PDT
The city of Palo Alto has selected interim Police Chief Dennis Burns to permanently head the department, potentially ending a 10-month search to replace former Chief Lynne Johnson.

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City Manager James Keene has recommended Burns for the job, and if the City Council confirms him on Sept. 21, Burns will officially take over the department the next day.

"Dennis knows, in his bones as well as his head, that the mandate for the police must come from the community," Keene said in a prepared statement. "He is able to listen - genuinely listen - and hear what citizens say, and, when appropriate, takes it on board and adjusts behavior accordingly."

Johnson retired late last year after she made remarks at a community meeting that critics said implied she condoned racial profiling.

Although Johnson retracted the Oct. 30 comments, saying she misspoke and offering numerous public apologies, the criticism continued and she stepped down in December.

Burns took over as interim chief on Dec. 19. The city hired an executive search firm to recruit a new police chief, and Burns was chosen over nearly 50 candidates from across the country, including seven who were called in for interviews and three local finalists.

The candidates appeared before panels of citizens and professionals, were interviewed by the city manager, met with the city's executive leadership team, and underwent extensive background checks.

Burns has been with the Palo Alto Police Department since 1982, rising through the ranks of agent, sergeant, lieutenant, captain, and assistant chief.

He has worked all patrol shifts and has served as a field training officer, detective, detective supervisor and crime prevention officer, according to the city.

Burns earned a bachelor's degree in administration of justice from San Jose State University in 1981 and a master's degree in public administration from the University of San Francisco. He has attended the FBI National Academy in Quantico, Va.

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