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COLUMBIA (AP) -- Columbia police chief Ken Burton is facing calls for his ouster from some citizens who say he wrongly fired an officer for assaulting a man in custody.

Supporters of former officer Rob Sanders say Burton has undermined morale and ignored an internal investigation that cleared Sanders of excessive force charges. The confrontation left an inmate in a police holding cell with a fractured vertebra.

Burton says he overrode the internal inquiry because he disagrees with its conclusion. He said he believes the investigation was conducted improperly.

A Columbia resident opposed to Burton's decision is collecting petition signatures and will ask elected leaders and Columbia's city manager to reinstate Sanders and fire Burton.

Burton was hired as police chief in January 2009. He previously was chief in Haltom City, Texas.