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Six police officers fired

Terminations stem from conduct after 2007 Porto's Bakery robbery.

June 12, 2010|By Christopher Cadelago

Six more Burbank police officers have been fired for allegedly acting improperly or engaging in excessive use of force.

The supposed wrongdoing came to light, officials said, following a probe into the investigation of a 2007 robbery of Porto's Bakery. Some of the officers' alleged misconduct occurred during the robbery investigation, though other officers' actions came to light when city officials widened their internal review of the incident.

City officials confirmed that Capt. Bill Taylor, Det. Mike Reyes and Officer Elfego Rodriquez were fired Friday. Sgt. Edgar Penaranda and officers Nick Nichols and Tom Perez were employed until June 7.

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The firings follow the April 15 termination of Lt. Omar Rodriguez, who last year sued the city alleging that he faced racial discrimination and retaliation when he was placed on leave for complaining of an improper relationship between the union and then-Chief Tim Stehr.

The allegations against Taylor included lying, neglect of duty and making false statements. The former deputy chief sued the city in September alleging that he was demoted after complaining about, among other issues, discrimination against minority officers to Stehr.

His attorney, Gregory W. Smith, characterized the charges against him as baseless and contrived.

"This has been very painful for Bill," Smith said. "He's dedicated his life to the city. And although we know he'll be vindicated in court, Bill is still greatly distressed that this entire investigation was set up to punish him for reporting misconduct."

After the city finished its probe, at least 10 officers were issued pending termination notices starting in March. They were fired when Police Chief Scott LaChasse determined that they likely committed the alleged acts.

The chief faced tight deadlines to meet statute-of-limitation issues that affected various charges listed in the disciplinary notices. Some officers have already been found to be exempt because too much time had passed, officials said.

"To sustain an allegation there needs to be a preponderance standard," LaChasse said Friday. Det. Mike Parrinello, president of the Burbank Police Officers' Assn., said it was up to the union to ensure that all of the terminated officers' rights were upheld.

"We're concerned for our members and their families, and we know how difficult this is for them," Parrinello said. "They still have their appellate rights afforded to them, and the [union] is going to ensure that those rights are granted properly."

Solomon Gresen, an attorney for Officer Elfego Rodriquez, said he couldn't comment on specific allegations because the city has yet to provide all of the interviews upon which the decision was based.

"To us, certainly it appears that the motive was improper," Gresen said Friday.

Disciplined officers could take legal action against the city or appeal to an arbitrator, who would make their recommendation to City Manager Mike Flad, officials said.

Perez, who joined the department in 2007, and Nichols, who joined in 2002, were fired for allegedly witnessing misconduct and failing to report it up the chain of command.

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