Burbank considers oversight attorney

May 12, 2010|By Christopher Cadelago

CITY HALL — Burbank officials are in the process of hiring the chief oversight attorney for the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department to review two officer-involved shootings and the recent suicide of a man at the Burbank Police Jail.

The contract is expected to be finalized this week for Michael Gennaco, chief attorney in the sheriff’s Office of Independent Review, although details of the contract were not available Tuesday.

Gennaco and another police expert will also evaluate broader-picture policies, such as the use of Tasers and deadly force, City Manager Mike Flad said.


Amid FBI and Sheriff’s Department investigations into excessive use of force, and a recent U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruling on when officers could use Tasers, the experts will examine whether the city’s policies are up to date, Flad said.

“We haven’t had an external review of incidents, at least on my watch, and I can’t recall us doing that before,” he said. “I want an expert, independent assessment of our use of deadly force in the case of the Barham incident, the incident in the jail and then an overall look at our use-of-force policy.”

Gennaco declined to comment on the contract until it was finalized.

The Los Angeles County district attorney’s office and Burbank Police Department in March opened investigations to determine what prompted two Burbank police officers to open fire on a fleeing suspect wanted in connection with an attempted murder in Wabash, Ind. The gunfire occurred in the open on Barham Boulevard.

Officers again fired at the suspect when the chase ended at the entrance to City Walk at Universal Studios.

Gennaco, who previously served in the U.S. attorney’s office as chief of the Civil Rights Section, recently recommended a host of reforms in Pasadena following an officer-involved shooting in February 2009.

He comes into a city dealing with its share of Police Department issues. The City Council this year set aside $1 million for former U.S. Atty. Debra Wong Yang and police expert Merrick Bobb to provide legal oversight and help reform the department, which for months has been reeling from civil rights lawsuits and federal probes into allegations of excessive force.

“What I want to do is bring in a perspective that’s more operational than it is legal,” Flad said. “This is experts making an operational or tactical assessment versus experts making legal assessments of our investigations.”

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