‘We can’t do our job without the community’: New police chief greets Lawrence residents

Newly hired Lawrence police chief Gregory Burns Jr. talks with Lawrence resident Julie Meyer during a meet and greet on Thursday, Oct. 19, 2017 at McDonald's, 901 W. 23rd St. Lawrence residents welcomed the new chief and also brought some of their concerns to his attention.

At a public meet and greet Thursday at a local fast-food restaurant, new Lawrence police chief Gregory Burns Jr. said numerous residents apologized for recent violence in the city.

Others congratulated him for the arrests this week of three suspects connected to a triple homicide downtown, as well as a peaceful end to a touchy standoff with an armed man Monday night near 27th Street and Haskell Avenue.

Those discussions highlight what Burns sees as two of the many pieces of the police department’s mission.

There’s going out and arresting people, and there’s also building a relationship with the community under better circumstances.

“We have to get out and do things like this in the community to establish that ongoing partnership,” Burns said of Thursday’s meet and greet. “If you don’t do that, then the job of the police department won’t be complete, because we can’t do our job without the community.”

The event at McDonald’s, 901 W. 23rd St., featured cake for all and Burns and other uniformed officers chatting with residents, and some of their kids.

Burns said he hoped to give residents the opportunity to meet him, but also get to know his new community himself.

Burns has been in law enforcement since 1993 and most recently was assistant police chief in Louisville, Ky. There he commanded the Louisville Metro Police Department’s Support Bureau, comprising the department’s major crimes, narcotics, community services and special operations divisions.

The city announced Burns’ hiring Aug. 2.

Burns said he only arrived in Lawrence on Oct. 1, the day of the shootings downtown. He was formally sworn in at the police department the next day.

“Coming from Louisville, I’m no stranger to that type of activity,” Burns said. “Coming to Lawrence I was hoping to not start off like this. But it’s all part of police work. We’re going to take care of it either way.”