An Owensboro police officer who resigned last month after an internal investigation substantiated he had violated OPD policies, started work last week as a deputy at the Daviess County Sheriff’s Department.
Logan Burnett was one of three officers who resigned after an OPD Professional Standards Unit investigation found they had violated multiple policies during a January vehicle chase, which led to an arrest later that night. A fourth officer received a 10-day unpaid suspension for also violating department policies in the incident.
Daviess County Sheriff Keith Cain and Chief Deputy Major Barry Smith said they reviewed the incident thoroughly before deciding to hire Burnett as a deputy.
“Our decision centered around this investigation, because we had to put it to rest,” Cain said Wednesday. “His background investigation involved considerably more (work), including interviewing his peers at OPD and his immediate supervisors … which resulted in our decision to hire him.
“I’m confident what I did was not only best for the officer and this organization, but the community we serve,” Cain said.
Burnett and OPD officers John Bell II and Andrew O’Bryan resigned after the OPD investigation that stemmed from an incident during which a man led officers on a vehicle chase before being arrested later that night after a foot chase. Officer Zane Glass agreed to a 10-day suspension, without pay. All four were found to have violated several OPD policies.
A computer-aided dispatch report says on the afternoon of Jan. 11, officers were searching for a vehicle that reportedly had been loaned to a man and not returned. (The man’s name was redacted in reports received through an Open Records request.) During a vehicle chase, the man allegedly drove at high speeds along several city streets, nearly striking an OPD cruiser on Gemini Drive and “nearly striking three cars” while driving in the median before evading police, the report says.
At 8 p.m. on Jan. 11, Burnett, Bell and DCSD Deputy Joshua White went to the Cadillac Motel on West Second Street after a report of the vehicle at the hotel, and then went to the Days Inn on New Hartford Road, based on additional information. A CAD report says the man was seen leaving in a vehicle, was stopped and fled on foot. The report says the man started to surrender but then turned away. At that point the man was taken to the ground by White and handcuffed by Bell, reports say.
A summary of the complaint says Burnett, Bell, O’Bryan and Glass “were involved in multiple pursuits following an investigation and operation that was unknown to supervisors.” Because the Open Records law makes only certain records public, the actions that led to the investigation of the officers are not specified.
The internal investigation found complaints against Burnett were “sustained,” meaning he was determined to have violated OPD policies. The sustained complaints against Burnett included improper vehicle operation; obedience to rules, regulations and laws; insubordination; unsatisfactory performance, discourtesy; and a false statement.
An OPD document provided by the sheriff’s office says Burnett was originally called to back up another officer who was trying to stop the vehicle the man was driving, and Burnett continued even when officers were told not to pursue.
“While responding, he (Burnett) drove excessively over the speed limit, reaching 116 miles per hour on the U.S. 60 bypass,” the document says.
The document also says Burnett drove more than 90 miles an hour on Carter Road and 69 miles per hour on Tamarack Road, speeds recorded by the patrol vehicle camera.
The document also says Burnett drove at high speeds on Southtown Boulevard, Gemini Drive and Carpenter Drive, and ran a red light at Southtown Boulevard. Burnett also ran a red light at Bittel Road and continued at high speeds, reaching 73 miles per hour, on Carter Road at Griffith Avenue, the document says.
Burnett didn’t operate his emergency lights and siren during the pursuit and disobeyed orders to cease.
“Lt. Randall Foster clearly communicated on the radio at least three times that officers were not to chase the stolen vehicle, but Officer Burnett continued to pursue the vehicle, misleading Central Dispatch and his supervisors by reporting over the radio that he was not pursuing the suspect,” the document says.
Later that night, Burnett “failed to advise Central Dispatch or his supervisors of his location when conducting a follow-up investigation in another sector,” the document says. “During that follow-up investigation, he drove 85 miles per hour while headed north on New Hartford Road without his emergency equipment activated.”
The document also says Burnett “provided false or misleading information in his written statement and citation regarding the Use of Force that was employed by another in the arrest of the suspect.”
Burnett resigned on May 13. Two days before, Burnett wrote a lengthy response to the allegations and stated when supervisors told officers to stop the vehicle pursuit of the man, Burnett “turned off my emergency equipment” but “continued to follow, which was one of my many mistakes.”
OPD has a vehicle pursuit policy and a bill passed by state lawmakers in 2020 requires all law enforcement agencies to have pursuit policies and train officers on the policy.
In his statement, Burnett admits losing the fleeing vehicle but later seeing it and trying to catch up “even after being told not to.”
Burnett says he conceived a plan to capture the man at the Days Inn after being informed he was there, which led to the foot pursuit. Burnett wrote he advised his supervisor of the plan afterward.
Burnett wrote he took responsibility for leading others in the incident.
“They followed my lead, although I was wrong in many ways,” Burnett said. “... I failed to realize in that moment, I am responsible for the actions taken by the other officers who follow me. … However, it is foolish to think they won’t follow you when you go against departmental policy.”
Burnett says he saw White “assist (the man) to the ground with no force” and that an officer handcuffed him. Burnett said he told his supervisor afterward “at no time did any OPD officer use any force at all, only assisted in handcuffing.”
Burnett wrote a memo about the incident and said he was told to complete a use of force report the next day.
“My reports read that no force was used, even though Deputy White assisted (the man) to the ground,” Burnett wrote. “To this day, I would continue to say that and stand by my verbiage ...”
Of the incidents that day, Burnett wrote: “I failed in many ways, such as not monitoring my speed appropriately regardless of traffic conditions, not maintaining my emergency lights throughout the incident, not (reporting in) on the radio, not clarifying … whether being present when another agency is assisting someone to the ground constitutes Use of Force or not within our agency. I failed to obey orders from my supervisors, ultimately I failed at my job.”
Cain said sheriff’s department officials took a thorough look at the incident when deciding on whether to hire Burnett as a deputy.
“We waited until that (ODP) investigation was completed,” Cain said.
In their review, sheriff’s department officials did not feel Burnett had made a false statement about when the suspect was put on the ground by Deputy White, Cain said.
After reviewing White’s “response to resistance” report, department officials “didn’t see any issue at all,” he said.
Regarding OPD’s sustained complaint of false statement, Cain said, “All we have in this profession is our level of integrity … In our thorough review of the investigation, we are not convinced that the question of his integrity was substantiated.
“It’s a matter of interpretation of the facts,” Cain said. “I’m not questioning OPD’s investigation. In fact, it was very thorough … If I thought (Burnett’s) integrity was in question, I would not have elected to hire him here.”
Of the other allegations, Cain said Burnett admitted to them and took responsibility.
“He didn’t try to blame anybody else. He took responsibility,” he said.
“Did he make mistakes? Absolutely,” Cain said. “Did he acknowledge those mistakes? Yes, he did. Did those mistakes call his integrity into question? Not in my viewpoint. The bottom line is we felt he deserved another chance.”
When asked if OPD had been prepared to fire Burnett had he not resigned, Major J.D. Winkler, a member of the OPD command staff, said, “Officer Burnett opted to resign in lieu of a termination hearing.
“At OPD, we address mistakes and missteps fairly, but violations related to integrity are non-negotiable,” Winkler said. “Any forms of lying or deception are not acceptable at OPD, and never will be.”
When asked if OPD would consider hiring a “lateral” officer from another department who had sustained policy violations in his or her background, Winkler said, “We have had multiple laterals apply at OPD over the last 12 months that did not meet our standards, and we are not willing to compromise on certain issues we find in people’s backgrounds, simply because we are short personnel.”
Smith said Burnett has gone through “Below 100” training since joining the sheriff’s office, which is a driving program regarding the dangers of high-speed driving for officers.
Smith said officers in a chase can be reluctant to stop and let a suspect flee, but it was impressed upon Burnett that he had to obey the instructions of supervisors.
“We made sure that kind of incident won’t be tolerated,” Smith said.
In a chase, a supervisor who is not involved “can make a better decision on what to do,” Smith said.
“We feel like he learned a valuable lesson from this,” Smith said. “... It seems he took full responsibility for what he did. I think he has come out of it a better man and a better law enforcement officer.”
James Mayse, 270-691-7303, email@example.com, Twitter: @JamesMayse