John W. Burbach, a law enforcement professional for 34 years, knew early that preparation and dedication led to success. Becoming an Eagle Scout as a teen and his years in the U.S. Marine Corps. proved to be a natural starting point for a long and accomplished career.
Burbach, who has worked for the Denver Police Department since 1987, took that philosophy to heart when he decided to go back to school to earn a Master’s degree in Public Administration from the CU Denver School of Public Affairs.
”For me, a Master’s degree was all about being ready to move into management, lead other people and learn how things work ahead of time,” Burbach says. “I like to be prepared.”
Burbach has had a diverse career in the DPD. Currently, he runs the Denver Police Department’s Planning, Research and Support Section. He’s also worked for the Mayor’s Office of Emergency Management, the Police Chief’s Office, the Major Crimes Bureau and has led the DPD’s Internal Affairs Bureau, among other positions. This year, Burbach was elected to the board of the Rocky Mountain Chapter of the FBI National Academy Associates.
He said he “wanted to be a police officer from a very young age,” adding that he’s maintained his interest in law enforcement over the span of his career. “I’ve had a lot of variety in my assignments. I’ve been able to go to different places and do different things.”
A Master’s Degree in Public Administration
In 1994, while working as a sergeant in the DPD’s Domestic Violence Investigations Unit, Burbach entered CU Denver to begin work on a Master’s degree in Public Administration. He completed his degree two years later.
“CU Denver gave me extra training in research that was very helpful,” he says. “I can work through issues, solve problems and direct others. I learned you may not know all the answers, but you can find out where the answers are.”
Attending graduate school at CU Denver’s downtown campus not only added to his career expertise, it also was conveniently located within walking distance to his office.
“Being able to save time and walk to class made me able to fit in everything I needed to do,” he says, remembering he was busy implementing a new DPD domestic violence program at the time.
He found courses in ethics particularly helpful.
“We were able to break down ethical dilemmas to figure out what’s at the core of them,” he says. “And then you look at your organization – how to reconcile your policies and procedures and what the law is. Once you decide that, you can decide the most ethical path to take. This process has helped me make better decisions.”
Enhancing Job Performance
As head of the DPD’s Planning, Research and Support Section, Burbach and his astute team use what he learned to support their work. His department is in charge of sharing and learning best law enforcement practices statewide and nationally. They research policies and procedures and make recommendations to the Chief of Police. The department also does strategic planning and special studies that may lead to changes in policy.
Their work has tackled use of force, body cameras and social media policies, among many other issues. Burbach’s years of police work have been “a good foundation” in the work he’s doing now, but his Public Administration degree made a difference.
“This degree has helped me all through my career,” he says. “I learned a lot about research, and how to be a good consumer of research. I’ve learned about policy and how policies are made. All of that has given me good background as I lead other people and look at issues.”
In his spare time, Burbach works part time for Major League Baseball as a liaison with the Colorado Rockies, advising on security and police matters and working events worldwide. He also works in a similar capacity with the National Hockey League, as a liaison with the Colorado Avalanche.
In addition to his baseball and hockey activities, Burbach has mentored his stepson and two sons through the Boy Scout program where they too have all earned the Eagle Scout award.
And as always, in work and life, he’s prepared.