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Burbank council endorses hiring consultants to monitor police

Michael Gennaco and Robert Corbin would monitor the internal affairs of the Police Department, which is under federal investigation for alleged excessive use of force and officer misconduct.

November 27, 2011|By Maria Hsin, Los Angeles Times

As Burbank moves to increase oversight of its Police Department, which is under federal investigation of allegations of officer misconduct and excessive use of force, transparency has emerged as a key part of its strategy.

At a joint meeting last week with the Police Commission, Burbank City Council members endorsed bringing on two outside consultants to monitor the internal affairs of the department and make their assessments and reports public.

The Police Commission still must hammer out the contract details for the two consultants — Michael Gennaco, who heads the Los Angeles County Office of Independent Review, and Robert Corbin, an attorney who was staff counsel to the Independent Commission on the Los Angeles Police Department.

Corbin has already worked with Burbank on the use-of-force audit and to evaluate city attorney candidates.

Gennaco's agency provides civilian oversight of the L.A. County Sheriff's Department, which recently has come under fire after allegations of mistreatment of inmates.

Police Chief Scott LaChasse said in an email that his department supported the external oversight.

"Law enforcement professionals consider external oversight to be necessary and proper to maintain accountability, transparency and public confidence," he said.

Under the preliminary plan, Corbin would oversee the department's strategic plan, which is being put in place after officer-involved shootings, allegations of excessive use of force and outside investigations by the FBI.

Gennaco would review a percentage of cases that would be randomly selected each year.

The details of each three-year contract, including cost, will be brought back to the City Council for final approval.

The additional oversight and monitoring are expected to bring greater transparency — Gennaco's reports to the City Council probably will be made public.

"When the report is issued, it will provide a wealth of information about the challenges the department has faced over the auditing period," Gennaco said. "The city of Burbank has never had that opportunity. Most of the information about the controversy has come from [media reports]. The reports will provide a significant step in transparency."

Gennaco also said oversight was needed "indefinitely" to keep "slippage in implementation" from occurring.

Councilman Dave Golonski echoed those sentiments.

History shows that departments typically do very well on the job in the aftermath of major problems or investigations, he said.

"The real challenge," Golonski said, "is to put in place [policy that is] sustainable and effective after a long period of time."

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