Celebrities are just people, and the Washington DC police chief thinks they should be treated like that — and nothing more.
District of Columbia Police Chief Cathy L Lanier has fought with Commander Hilton Burton over his insistence in providing departmental escorts for celebrities in the nation’s capital, and Burton now says that he has been demoted in retaliation.
Burton was overseeing the DC Special Operations Division, which gave the veteran command of the DC SWAT, terrorism response units and police escorts. That last item became a hot issue following a scandal earlier this year in which Burton’s higher up insisted that he was abusing the escort policy by allowing departmental aid for the rich and famous.
Actor Charlie Sheen was appearing in DC in June when he tweeted that a police escort was taking him from Virginia’s Dulles International Airport all the way into the District. An investigation into the incident from the DC Inspector General’s office revealed that celebrity escorts had been commonplace in the department for years, though Chief Lanier insists that motorcades are for presidents, vice presidents and visiting heads of state only.
A hearing in June 23 with the DC Council Committee on Public Safety and the Judiciary hearing on the escort policy led to the two parties verbally attacking one another over what exactly departmental policy was. In an interview with The Washington Times on Tuesday, Burton says the demotion to captain is “definitely direct retaliation for the hearing.”
According to Burton, escorts had been offered in the past to musicians including Billy Joel and Paul McCartney, with no backlash from administration. Burton called this practice “standard operating procedure” as commander of the Special Operations Division and had offered a list of 47 escorts he was aware of during the last nine years. Lanier attested, however, that a high-ranking officer must approve each and every escort, whether for a former Beatle or anyone else that doesn’t meet the crucial criteria reserved for world leaders.
In a statement released by Lanier on Tuesday, she says the demotion came after a review was conducted of “several critical incidents” and command decisions, as well as a recommendation from Burton’s direct supervisor.
As captain, Burton has now been demoted two ranks, transferred to the medical services division and has been docked around $30,000 in pay.