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‘We need him back’: Forest Hill residents protest police chief termination by city manager

Forest Hill Police Chief Eddie Burns was fired from his position on Feb. 17. Now, some Forest Hill residents are fighting for him to be reinstated, saying he was wrongfully terminated.

Burns and protesters supporting him stood outside of Forest Hill City Hall on Friday, demanding that the city bring him back to the police department. They also protested the need for a new city manager.

“This is the worst I’ve ever seen our city,” said former Forest Hill mayor Lyndia Thomas. “We’re putting people in these positions who do not know how to manage — that’s one reason why we are mad.”

The protest comes almost two weeks after Burns was terminated by Forest Hill City Manager Venus Wehle. A source in the city’s administration told the Star-Telegram that Wehle fired Burns with no input from the mayor or city council.

Forest Hill residents hold signs in support of their police chief, Eddie Burns Sr., who was fired in February after being on medical leave for months before his termination, in front of Forest Hill City Hall on Friday, March 1, 2024.
Forest Hill residents hold signs in support of their police chief, Eddie Burns Sr., who was fired in February after being on medical leave for months before his termination, in front of Forest Hill City Hall on Friday, March 1, 2024.

“We’re angry because when you have a person like Venus Wehle as a city manager, and she has no idea of how to manage — not to say she’s not a good person — but she’s not the person for Forest Hill,” Thomas said at the protest.

Burns, who had been on medical leave for months, said that the city fired him in retaliation after he filed an EEOC complaint against city officials alleging discrimination and malfeasance.

“It’s the history of the city and things that have been taking place for a long time and I brought it to light through the media,” Burns said. “The next thing I know, I’m getting an attorney.”


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Burns was hired as police chief in July 2021. He commanded the Forest Hill Police Department during a period marred by internal complaints of harassment and a spree of resignations without new hires to fill empty spots, according to city records and multiple former officers.

In their resignation letters, some former officers wrote that problems in the department predated Burns’ tenure and that they had noticed efforts by Burns to change the direction and culture of the department but the officers felt those efforts had not made enough of a difference by the time they resigned.

Burns’ personnel file, obtained by the Star-Telegram through an open records request, shows that Burns had received three letters of reprimand from Wehle, all in 2023. Two of them related to the police chief’s communication with others and one reprimanded Burns for hiring an attorney in connection with another officer’s EEOC complaint without the approval of the city council.

Former Forest Hill Police Chief Eddie Burns Sr., who was fired in February after being on medical leave for months before his termination, looks on at the dozens of residents rallying and holding signs in support of him in front of Forest Hill City Hall on Friday, March 1, 2024.
Former Forest Hill Police Chief Eddie Burns Sr., who was fired in February after being on medical leave for months before his termination, looks on at the dozens of residents rallying and holding signs in support of him in front of Forest Hill City Hall on Friday, March 1, 2024.

Burns said that even after all the issues he’s encountered regarding his termination, he wants his job back.

“I’ve had a long career in public safety and I think by the people that came out tonight, that they support me,” Burns said. “They care. I care. And so that’s my message: That I do care about Forest Hill and I appreciate everyone coming out tonight in support of what I was trying to do in this community.”

From 2006 to 2011, Burns was the Dallas Fire-Rescue chief, a term the Dallas Morning News in 2011 described as “rocky.” Under his leadership, Dallas Fire-Rescue was the subject of allegations of discrimination, sexual harassment and retaliation, all of which have been alleged during his tenure as the chief of Forest Hill police. He resigned from his position in Dallas after city leadership found out he owned a stake in a bar in Arlington and another in south Dallas, the Dallas Morning News reported.

But protesters and Forest Hill residents on Friday praised Burns’ performance as a leader in law enforcement.

Forest Hill residents rally and hold signs in support of Police Chief Eddie Burns Sr., who was fired last month after being on medical leave, in front of Forest Hill City Hall on Friday, March 1, 2024.
Forest Hill residents rally and hold signs in support of Police Chief Eddie Burns Sr., who was fired last month after being on medical leave, in front of Forest Hill City Hall on Friday, March 1, 2024.

“Chief Burns was doing an outstanding job. He was the only chief that we’ve had in 45 years that I know of that started having meetings with the citizens to hear our concerns, to share what was going on in the police department,” Thomas said. “So the bottom line is we need Chief Burns back because he is the only positive that has come out of this building.”

Thomas added that the city is facing several issues inside and out of the city government, including racism, discrimination and financial problems.

“We need people who care about the citizens and the city,” Thomas said. “We need somebody that wants to come in here, embrace this city and move forward.”

“I’m looking forward to the investigation to reveal the malfeasance and the discrimination that’s been taking place in this city for a long time,” Burns said.

Residents and community members will attend a city council meeting on Tuesday, when they expect Wehle to provide an official statement regarding her decision to fire Burns from the police department.