WEST MEMPHIS, Ark. — A West Memphis police officer under investigation for gender discrimination and retaliation was allowed to return to work before the investigation finished, according to a report obtained in a freedom of information act request by WREG.
The report also focused on similar allegations against Major Stacy Allen, who was suspended for five days without pay after the investigation finished. The investigator found Allen said a black female dispatcher should not be married to a white man, followed female employees to their homes to threaten them if they complained about him and told female employees they needed a “spanking.”
But in the report, independent attorney Florence Johnson indicated the city didn’t let her complete her work on Lt. Charles Burch’s case since they allowed him to return to the department before she finished her month-long investigation.
“The investigator believes that Burch is now working in a satellite location currently described as the ‘range,’” she wrote.
She also wrote female employees complained about Burch with “allegations of gender discrimination and retaliation …” but since they already let him come back, she didn’t go into specifics.
She did write employees did not feel past complaints had been addressed and said she never determined if the city had done anything to address the current complaints against Burch, “other than to move [him] to a different location without explanation.”
“Employee complainants expressed concern about not knowing when Burch might return to the main location of the Police Department,” she wrote.
Once the independent investigator finished her report, West Memphis Mayor Marco McClendon sent a press release to WREG, but in it, he only mentioned Allen’s case.
Mayor says he didn’t find evidence to terminate
WREG asked McClendon about the way he handled Burch and why he was allowed to come back to work while Johnson was still conducting her investigation into allegations against him.
“Charles Burch had the opportunity to come back in December because of the simple fact that some of the allegations levied against him, when me and the city attorney had opportunity to look at those allegations, we didn’t find nothing in there that we felt we should terminate him,” McClendon said.
While he said they didn’t find evidence to terminate, he never talked about a possible suspension without pay.
“He was reprimanded and then sent back to work,” McClendon said.
When asked how Burch was reprimanded, McClendon said he couldn’t speak about it.
Personnel records show Burch has been with WMPD on and off since 2008, with several disciplinary issues as well as promotions and achievements.
The current lieutenant’s issues began in 2010, when a memo showed he was relieved of duty following an officer involved shooting.
In 2013, he was suspended for accidentally firing his service weapon in his car during training at the Police Department.
Later that year he resigned and then came back in 2014.
McClendon said they had reason not to wait for the investigation into Burch to finish like they did with Allen.
“Due to the fact there were more pressing complaints against Allen than with Burch,” the mayor said.
When asked if Burch had anything he wanted to say about the allegations against him, Burch chose not to comment.
Another document obtained by WREG via a Freedom of Information Act request labeled “Investigation Talking Points” showed city officials believed “no violation of any policy was found with regard to Burch’s conduct.”
- See Part 1 of this investigation, focusing on another WMPD officer, Maj. Stacy Allen