YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections

Review of Burbank Police Department finds deficiencies

Looking at the department's internal investigations and its handling of use-of-force incidents, an independent review notes problems but also some improvements.

November 25, 2012|By Alene Tchekmedyian, Los Angeles Times
  • The Burbank Police Department has been implementing changes to address the review board’s concerns, a police official said. Above, department headquarters.
The Burbank Police Department has been implementing changes to address… (Glenn Koenig, Los Angeles…)

A recent report on the Burbank Police Department's internal investigations and its responses to officers' use of force found deficiencies in timeliness, evidence gathering and problem spotting.

The report by the Los Angeles County Office of Independent Review, which the city hired last year for department oversight, comes at a time when the law enforcement agency is reeling from excessive-force allegations, officer-involved lawsuits and a federal investigation into alleged officer misconduct.

The report did note some improvements compared with "below baseline" cases from previous years.

"The consensus we found, generally speaking, was that the [investigative] efforts by your Police Department were really an objective search for truth," said Michael Gennaco, chief attorney on the review board. "That doesn't mean every investigation was perfect."

The team of attorneys reviewed six internal investigations and 11 use-of-force incidents that were closed this year.

Gennaco's biggest concern was the time it took to complete the investigations. Of the six internal investigations reviewed, one had expired. The officer was never disciplined for failing to document a sexual battery allegation because the investigation wasn't finished on time.

State law gives officials one year to complete internal investigations.

"The worst thing you want to do is have an officer who should have been held accountable not be held accountable because of a technicality," Gennaco said.

In another case, an officer was interviewed eight months after the incident in question and couldn't recall the details, making it difficult "to challenge the officer," he said.

Most investigations, however, were completed within a few months of the incidents.

The report found that the department's use-of-force response protocols were thoughtful and thorough, although they were not always fully implemented.

Pointing out shortcomings in witness interviews, the report cited a case involving use of force against a juvenile: The suspect's story differed from the officer's, but other officers who had been there were not interviewed.

The review board also discovered instances in which suspects' injuries weren't prioritized. A suspect who had been kicked by an officer — in the same spot where he'd been shot years earlier — complained of stomach pain three times before he was sent to a medical facility.

Another suspect, who was said to be intoxicated and uncooperative when arrested, complained of pain for two days while in custody. It was discovered later that his finger was broken.

Interim Police Chief Scott LaChasse said the department has been implementing changes to address the review board's concerns.

"Today, there's probably more strict instruction in terms of taking complaints and doing a full, complete investigation," LaChasse said.

Gennaco commended the city for its transparency.

"It's going to be uncomfortable for some — change always is, transparency always is," he said. "The curtain's been thrown open. Light has been allowed in."

Los Angeles Times Articles