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A Shining Example

July 12, 2011 | Virginia News

News Image Kansas Police Chief Dennis Butler (retired Captain, Alexandria PD) named alumnus of year by George Mason University

by Karen Bune

A graduate of George Mason University in Fairfax, Va., Chief Dennis Butler of the Ottawa Kansas Police Department had good reason to fly to Virginia on May 20, 2011 and be present at his alma mater. He was awarded the 2011 Alumnus of the Year Award.

The knowledge obtained as a result of his university education--he has a bachelor’s in the administration of justice and a master’s certificate in public administration--coupled with his 30 experience years in law enforcement have made a tremendous impact in the communities he has served. Prior to his move to Kansas, Chief Butler was employed by the Alexandria Virginia Police Department from 1979-2004 and achieved the rank of captain before retiring from the department. He also served as the public information officer for three years.

During his tenure in Alexandria and in his various roles, he had many proven accomplishments. Notably, he reduced the number of citizen complaints against officers through his emphasis on improved communications and service. He promoted community-policing initiatives and increased citizen satisfaction by working closely with local civic associations. He also initiated a city-wide government project to acquire and implement electronic document imaging technology with the goal of strengthening departmental efficiency while, at the same time, improving overall customer service.

Chief Butler also served as a full-time city council liaison who interacted with city officials and citizens at all public meetings. He established and hosted meetings regularly with members of the prosecutor’s office to address issues that compromised the successful prosecution of both criminal and traffic cases and which resulted in the enhancement of a computerized court scheduling program.

While employed in the Alexandria PD, showing initiative was common for Chief Butler. He initiated and supervised the complete automation of all field training daily observation along with weekly and monthly reports.

Following his retirement, he departed the nation’s capitol region and headed to Ottawa, Kan., where he became the chief of police. The rural and smaller area of Ottawa was a contrast to the larger city atmosphere of Alexandria and the surrounding metropolitan region. Upon his arrival there, however, he wasted no time in orienting himself to the community and learning what might be needed to assist the citizens of Ottawa for enhancement of their public safety.

Chief Butler quickly recognized that a focus on domestic violence was clearly lacking, and he took immediate steps to implement changes in that area. He overhauled the domestic violence investigative policies, required reports be taken, even if no arrests were made, and discouraged dual-arrests. His policy requires that officers on a scene contact an advocate to not only report the incident but to encourage the victim to immediately talk with one.

“Often, I encounter police officers who remain skeptical regarding the level of effort I recommend to investigate domestic violence-related cases. When this happens, I encourage them to remember several things about the situation they are dealing with. First, domestic violence victims are often difficult to help because of their reluctance to cooperate or follow through and we discuss other reasons why. Every cop I know said they become one to ‘help people.’ I suggest that ‘helping people,’ while admirable, should not be reserved for those that are the easiest to help or who want our help and should include those who are the most difficult to help—no matter what the reason. If this doesn’t seem to connect, I mention children in violent homes who have no choice in the matter and cite statistics about what can happen to them if their exposure to verbal and physical abuses continues. It’s very satisfying when I can see changes in officers’ attitudes and performance occur because then I know we are making progress and helping victims and children who need us,” Chief Butler says.

In 2005, Chief Butler obtained a two-year federal grant to create a joint domestic violence unit with the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office. A domestic violence coordinator was hired for the County Attorney and an advocate was hired for the domestic violence center.

Chief Butler began multi-disciplinary presentations at local high schools on the topics of domestic violence, dating violence and stalking. Chief Butler created a new stalking investigative policy for his jurisdiction that includes a warning letter that officers and detectives can serve on individuals who are beginning to exhibit signs of stalking behavior.

Chief Butler proactively participated in the governor’s sub-committee on domestic violence training, and a 40-hour instructor’s course was created to standardize training throughout Kansas. Occasionally, he teaches the course. The committee created formatted electronic polices that are able to be modified for local needs.

The chief was proactive in writing and applying for grants to assist his jurisdiction, and it wasn’t uncommon for him to be up late hours writing the grants himself. Successful in those endeavors, he obtained a two-year federal grant in 2009 from the Office On Violence Against Women (OVW) U. S. Department of Justice. It enabled the hiring of a domestic violence detective, an administrative assistant and a full-time clinician at the Elizabeth Layton Center, a mental health facility, to start a Batterers Intervention Program. It was up and running in one year and is currently serving 24 clients. In 2011, Chief Butler applied for a three-year OVW grant renewal to maintain police staffing from 2009 and to expand the Batterer Intervention Program to three additional counties.

Chief Butler’s proactive efforts in law enforcement have been exemplary throughout his career. They are an admirable reflection of his tenure in the Alexandria Virginia PD, as well as a result of the education he received at George Mason University. Armed with vast knowledge, skills and experience that he carried with him to Kansas, he has made tremendous inroads in the Midwest.

“While at Mason, Dennis Butler was an excellent scholar, but he did more than just help himself to a quality education. He worked hard to help other officers in his department get an excellent education, too. He did an outstanding job of coordinating Mason’s Cohort Program for the Alexandria Police Department. I’m not at all surprised that he continues to stand out in his career as a police chief in Ottawa, Kansas,” Dr. Stephen Mastrofski says.

“This award properly recognizes the continued achievements of an innovative and respected public safety professional. It also demonstrates the continued commitment to excellence through education by George Mason University. I congratulate them both,” Ret. Alexandria Virginia Police Chief David P. Baker says.

Chief Baker attended the GMU Award ceremony in support of Chief Butler.

A member of numerous professional organizations, Chief Butler has continued to keep pace with the criminal justice system through continued training and education. He’s been the recipient of other awards that include the 2008 Kansas DARE Officer’s Association President’s Award for best summer DARE camp in Kansas and the Kansas Attorney General’s 2007 Victim’s Rights Service Award for Law Enforcement.

As a recipient of the 2011 George Mason University Alumnus of the Year Award, Chief Butler continues to shine in the Ottawa Police Department and as a retired member of the Alexandria Virginia Police Department and an alumnus of George Mason University. The words of Maya Angelou aptly apply to him: “Shine on, shine on … the world needs more people like you.” 

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