New Lawrence police chief is no stranger to college towns

LAWRENCE, Kan. -- A longtime college town crimefighter is taking the reigns for the Lawrence Police Department.

For the first time in his career, 28-year police veteran Gregory Burns put on a new uniform and new badge that reads "Chief of the Lawrence Police Department."

The changing of the guard comes as Lawrence faces new challenges. As FOX 4's Shannon O'Brien found out, Chief Burns is taking his time before making his next move.

A new job in a new town, Chief Gregory Burns, Jr. is the former assistant police chief of Louisville, Kentucky -- also a college town. He says that similarity with Lawrence was one of the things that pushed him to take the leap.

"Sort of like the lottery, if you don't play you can't win, so I decided to play," Burns said with a smile.

It was a bet that paid off -- beating about 30 other people also vying for the job. Now that he is here, Chief Burns says the most important thing as the top administrator is having a police force that cares about their jobs and cares about the community.

What exactly he will change about the Lawrence PD? Chief Burns isn't sure on just day 22 of his new position.

"So the thing that I tell the officers is the only thing I will promise you is some thing will change. I don't know when, but something will probably look a little bit different because we will keep the things that are good and we will get rid of the things that are bad. The things that are good we will make better. To me, that's the sign of a good leader," Burns said. "I feel very good about the Lawrence Police Department."

Chief Burns has started meeting with folks in the community to find out what they expect from the new chief.

"I think just to keep working on the sensitivity of issues around cultural diversity and making sure that our PD treats everybody fairly and is responsive to everybody no matter what the color of their skin, black, brown, yellow, Native American, that there is a sensitivity abut dealing with a diverse city like Lawrence Kan," said resident Peter Luckey.

"Probably the biggest thing that I have heard from everybody, consistently from the community, is apologizing to me for my rough start here with the police department," Burns said.

That rough start being a shooting in the heart of Lawrence near 11th and Massachusetts Street that ended with five people shot, three of them fatally.

Stopping incidents like the Mass St. shooting top the wish list for many in Lawrence.

"That they can control the violence and put the bad people away," said resident Mitsey Campbell.

Chief Burns plans to continue meeting with citizens, whether it is in big groups or individuals, which can be arranged by calling the Chief's office.