Burns on being named state Chief of the Year: ‘It’s nice to be recognized by your peers’

lfabian@macon.comJuly 24, 2013 

Former Macon Police Chief Mike Burns might be retired, but he hasn’t given up investigative work.

Although news was kept secret of him being named Georgia’s Outstanding Chief of the Year, he had an inkling during Tuesday night’s banquet in Savannah.

“The detective came out in me,” Burns said Wednesday after returning to Macon.

The 61-year-old veteran law officer knew he was getting a lifetime membership in the Georgia Association of Chiefs at its summer convention in Savannah.

When he received that honor, the association’s executive director let it slip that the gathering would be hearing more about Burns’ accomplishments later in the evening.

When asked about the honor, he said: “Surprise, Surprise,” with a contrived accent reminiscent of television’s Gomer Pyle. “Wasn’t that something?”

The crowning achievement of his career came less than two months after he left office.

He had been nominated before for the annual award that considers a chief’s law enforcement accomplishments, service to the community and the association, he said.

Burns was lauded as a mentor to officers and a behind the scenes “legislative connoisseur,” according to a news release from the organization.

“It’s nice to be recognized by your peers,” he said.

May 31, Burns ended his eight-year tenure leading the department as the successor to Chief Rodney Monroe.

He served 39 years in the department and became the only officer to rise through the ranks to become chief.

Interim Chief Mike Carswell will serve as his successor until Sheriff David Davis assumes the lead law enforcement role in the new consolidated government in January.

At Burns’ retirement ceremony this month, Carswell said Burns led the force with honor, courage and integrity.

“We know his influence on law enforcement will be felt in Middle Georgia for years to come. He made us so much better and more effective,” Carswell said.

In Sunday’s Telegraph, Macon police public information officer Jami Gaudet praised Burns’ many accomplishments, including a documented 22,000 fewer crimes during his tenure than in the previous eight years.

“Burns didn’t allow most people to see his winsome personality and devilish humor, but among his brethren, he is charming and witty with a track record of compassion for citizens and for the men and woman he led,” Gaudet wrote.

Shortly after his retirement, Burns said he still loves the job, but got tired of the politics and decided to leave.

He was clearly frustrated at the end of a tumultuous year that included an elected sheriff being chosen as “top cop” in the merger plan and people clamoring for his resignation after an officer-involved fatal shooting of a man outside the Kroger on Pio Nono Avenue.

Although quiet and seemingly shy, Burns took his role to heart.

“If you attack the police department, I take it personal. If someone breaks into your house, I take it personal,” he said during his retirement interview with The Telegraph.

Burns has not ruled out rejoining law enforcement ranks after the summer.

“All of his contemporaries vow to have him return to the law enforcement profession so that he can guide future police chiefs,” stated the association’s announcement of Burns’ award.

Carswell, Macon police Maj. Robert Grabowski and Burns’ former assistant, Tracy Wood, were at the banquet along with Burns’ three daughters and his wife, Bobbie.

His son, Michael, a Georgia state trooper, was teaching a class and could not attend.

“I guess he’s following in my footsteps and missing family events,” Burns said.

He almost skipped the ceremony himself when he forgot to pack his dress shoes, but his wife scrambled and found him a pair.

“I was wondering why everyone really wanted me to go.”

Information from The Telegraph archives was used in this report.

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