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Friday, July 12, 2013 11:34 pm

Top cop wore tasteless tee

Details on Cliff Buscher’s arrest

Cliff Buscher, following his arrest

Updated with reaction from Mayor Mike Houston, city council, 12:43 p.m. 7/12/13

Springfield deputy police chief Clifford Buscher was wearing a t-shirt with a racially charged message when he was arrested in Missouri in 2008 after drunkenly firing a gun while on a fishing trip with three other officers.

A mug shot of Buscher taken after his arrest shows him wearing a t-shirt that has a depiction of the Chicago skyline with the words “Hooked On Ebonics, Git Wit Da Program.” Buscher was arrested after other officers called Taney County sheriff’s deputies because Buscher was firing his service pistol into Lake Taneycomo at the Edgewater Beach Resort where police officers were staying during incident that occurred in the wee hours of March 28, 2008.

Children were present, according to a report written by a Taney County sheriff’s deputy who responded to the call at 1:41 a.m. Nearly two hours later, testing showed that Buscher had a blood-alcohol content of .094 percent, above the legal driving limit of .08 percent.

Buscher’s mug shot shows a wound above his left eye covered in gauze. Buscher told a deputy that Doug Williamson, a fellow officer, had punched him several times but that he did not wish to pursue assault charges.

Buscher was originally charged with unlawful use of a weapon, a felony. Prosecutors reduced the charge to pleaded guilty to peace disturbance, a misdemeanor, and Buscher received probation and a fine. Buscher, who is considered by many to be a candidate to become the next police chief after chief Robert Williams retires, was suspended after an internal affairs investigation. He could not be reached for comment.

The Springfield internal affairs file on the incident was apparently one of dozens of police disciplinary files shredded last spring after it was requested by Calvin Christian III under the state Freedom of Information Act. The Illinois State’s Attorneys Appellate Prosecutor’s Office is investigating to determine whether any criminal laws were broken when the documents were destroyed. Williams, who ordered the shredding, has told the council that the files were destroyed as a matter of efficiency.

Mayor Mike Houston noted that the incident occurred before he was elected, and he defended Buscher in an written response to an interview request.

"Deputy chief Buscher has done an outstanding job since I assumed office," Houston wrote in an email. "Both Chief Williams and myself believe he has done a good job of turning around the criminal investigation division (in the police department). As a result of the incident, I believe he is a changed man. Alcohol was involved in the incident, and he has not had any since the incident."

Williams refused comment. Told the nature of the call, the person who answers phones in the chief’s office said that Williams wanted city spokesman Nathan Mihelich to answer questions.

Ward 1 Ald. Frank Edwards said that he saw the mug shot of Buscher within the past two weeks. Edwards, who had sponsored an unsuccessful council resolution aimed at prohibiting further shredding of documents unless authorized by the Local Records Commission, as proscribed by state law, said that he was surprised that Buscher would wear such a t-shirt.

Is someone who would wear something like that qualified to be Springfield’s police chief?

“I don’t believe so,” Edwards answered.

Ward 8 Ald. Kris Theilen said that Buscher has told him directly that he doesn't want Williams' job.

"I actually asked him point-blank about that," Theilien said. "He is not interested. As far as he is concerned, he hopes Bobby is not retiring."

Theilen said that a person has a right to wear what they want on their own time.

"I'm sure people are going to hang me for this," Theilen said. "People have poor taste in choosing what they do and say and wear all the time. I believe that's a person's right."

However, Theilen said he did not know what he would say about the shirt to a person of color who believed that they had not gotten a fair shake from Springfield police.

"Honestly, I don't know that I can answer that question," Theilen said. "I know many people in the minority community have faith in Cliff Buscher." 

Contact Bruce Rushton at brushton@illinoistimes.com.

Click to read the arrest report: http://www.illinoistimes.com/Springfield/file-160-.pdf


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