RCPD Director Dennis Butler

Policing in America & The RCPD

I don’t know if I have ever seen the topic of police legitimacy remain front page news for as long as it has since May 2020. I’d like to share my perspective as a gauge of what we read and watch about other communities and what I have learned about the Riley County Police Department.

When I first heard the slogan “Defund the police,” I wasn’t quite sure what to make of it.

As time passed, I learned more and was often asked what my thoughts were surrounding this national discussion.  Generally, my thoughts I shared then turned out to be correct and are still true now. Since there was no realistic “plan” offered during the chants for defunding, I said cops would quit or retire early, violent crime would spike, businesses would suffer and close, the politicians would eventually realize their mistakes & attempt to undo the damage caused (still occurring); and that it would take years to repair that damage. This is because the police officers affected would never trust their elected officials again and that lack of trust would take years to overcome-if ever. Also, the new crime waves would take substantial efforts to get under control. Years from now we will see empirical research released on what has happened (COVID-19 factors will have to be part of the assessment) to my profession, and to many communities.

When asked about the actions of police officers in other departments I reply that I only know and see what they see. When pressed I tell them that I cannot blindly defend nor condemn what we see because we don’t have all of the facts and investigations are incomplete.  One of the best aids in those efforts has been the proliferation of police body and in-car camera footage and footage from citizens. Therefore, I always suggest they wait for the legal process to unfold. It is my professional opinion that most citizens grossly misunderstand state statutes, case-law and police training designed to help officers comply with both. With more than 18,000 police departments and 800,000 law enforcement officers in our country I am confident that most are upholding their oaths and providing the best services they can with the resources they have. But it is not always the case;  in those situations police officers and sheriff’s deputies should be held accountable.

The RCPD Core Values and standards are not empty slogans and nice documents sitting on shelves collecting dust that describe what we should be like. These values and standards are woven into the hiring, training, performance and expectations of what our employees do every day. When we fall short, we correct it and sometimes that means employees are forced to find other employment. I apologize when necessary. During my tenure, I have emphasized enhancement of already strong accountability, public candor, and relationship building with every agency and citizen we work with and serve.  Fair and impartial policing is part of that. The public information and analysis we release to the law board about use of force, internal investigations, crime rates, and other monthly, quarterly and annual reports is the most detailed I have every seen. Moreover, the quality of the work in the only consolidated police department in Kansas – maybe in the country – is made better by accreditation through the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies (CALEA). I plan to write you one more time before my retirement on February 1 to explain why I believe a consolidated and accredited department is so important to the citizens of Riley County and should be a model for communities who also want and deserve accountable and transparent policing.

Director Dennis P. Butler

Riley County Police Department

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