With national search for new chief set to begin, city announces that interim Police Chief Anthony Brixius will step down

photo by: Nick Gerik

The Lawrence Police Department's headquarters at 5100 Overland Drive is pictured Jan. 11, 2021.

The City of Lawrence announced Friday afternoon that interim Police Chief Anthony Brixius will step down and that another captain will take his place until the city hires a new leader for the department.

City Manager Craig Owens will promote Capt. Adam Heffley as the next interim police chief, effective Sunday, according to a city news release. Owens praised Brixius in the release and said that moving forward he would return to his duties as captain and serve an integral role in the selection process of the next chief.

“Anthony has done an outstanding job as interim chief during an exceptionally challenging year,” Owens said.

Brixius has served as interim chief for nearly a year. Brixius said in the release that serving as interim chief has been an honor and that Heffley taking over the responsibility would allow him to meet “important family obligations.”

photo by: Journal-World File

Capt. Adam Heffley of the Lawrence Police Department is pictured Tuesday, Feb. 11, 2020, at the Investigations and Training Center, 4820 Bob Billings Parkway.

Last May, the city announced that Lawrence Police Chief Gregory Burns Jr., the city’s first Black police chief, would step down from his position just a few months after most members of the police union voted that they did not have confidence in his ability to lead the department, as the Journal-World previously reported. Specific reasons for the decision or the union’s vote were never publicly disclosed, and a separation agreement between Burns and the city included a “mutual nondisparagement” agreement and a $106,805 payment to Burns.

In June, city leaders called for a review of the police department in the wake of national and local calls for police reform and protests against police killings of Black people and other people of color. The Lawrence City Commission ultimately agreed in October to pay Citygate Associates $117,833 for a comprehensive study of the police department, the creation of a new master plan and the development of a candidate profile for the city’s next police chief. One of CityGate’s considerations is whether some duties should be shifted away from police and instead be handled by other community agencies or organizations.

photo by: Mackenzie Clark

Interim Lawrence Police Chief Anthony Brixius, in focus, speaks with protesters near 11th and Massachusetts streets on Monday, June 29, 2020.

In addition to assistance from CityGate, the city announced last month that it plans to enlist the help of a professional search firm to conduct a national search for the department’s next chief. At that time, Brixius said he would not apply for the position of chief, saying that being chief was not the best fit for him or his family.

Heffley has been with the Lawrence Police Department for 21 years and has served as part of the command team since 2013. Heffley said in the release that city leadership, Brixius and he were all committed to progress “through introspection, quality training, experience, and a thorough review of how we currently operate.”

CityGate’s study of the police department will be presented to the City Commission in late spring. A national search for the new police chief is expected to begin within the next month.

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