Heroic San Francisco private cop fired for wearing improper uniform 

A hero Patrol Special cop has been sacked — for failing to wear the proper uniform.

Last year, Patrol Special officer Robert Burns, 66, was nominated for a medal from the Police Department for taking down a gunman during a fatal shootout outside a Fisherman’s Wharf nightclub.

But on Wednesday, at the request of the SFPD, the Police Commission voted to revoke Burns’ badge for refusing to follow several commission rules, including wearing the required uniform.

Patrol Specials are citizens authorized in the City Charter to provide private security for businesses and people. Burns provided security for Club Suede, where the shooting occurred, and other businesses in North Beach.

The police said Burns on at least one occasion wore uniform pants and a jacket that “lacked the blue soutache stripe.” He was caught wearing an improper uniform 37 times in 2009 and 2010.

Burns, a Patrol Special cop since 1976, also didn’t show up for mandatory first aid and CPR training classes and failed to provide proof of his insurance, according to the SFPD.

One of the uniform violations was logged 12 days after the nightclub shootout that made Burns a hero.

On Feb. 7, 2010, a 19-year-old man was killed and three others injured after the shooting at Club Suede, which has been closed down by order from a judge.

Burns shot one of two suspects engaged in a gunbattle amid hundreds of screaming club-goers, which police said led to the gunman’s arrest.

In nominating Burns for a medal of valor, police called his quick action that day a “selfless devotion to duty,” saying his actions helped prevent further injury.

During a hearing at a Police Commission meeting Wednesday, Burns did not deny the allegations against him. Instead, Burns said he is not a city employee and thus should not have to abide by the Police Department’s rules and procedures.

“How can I be charged with violating the rules and regulations of a department that I’m not a member of?” he said.
However, a lawyer with the City Attorney’s Office cited a 1994 court ruling that said Patrol Special officers had to follow Police Commission rules.

Meanwhile, Burns is a key witness in the 2010 murder case at Club Suede. Last week, he testified in a preliminary hearing in the case.


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