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Editorial: Give more power to the police commission

June 19, 2010

Plans to host the first of what could be a series of forums for the public to voice their concerns about the recent Burbank police fiascoes look good on the surface, but questions remain as to just how effective they'll be.

For starters, let's not forget that the police commission has no real oversight power of the Burbank Police Department.

That duty is with the city manager and City Council, two entities under which this current mess brewed.

This week, the last of the 10 officers who received discipline notices were fired — a significant page turned on this too-long chapter of independent probes into police misconduct and civil-rights violations.

The FBI's investigation still looms large, and the city is still left with the ominous task of righting the course for the future of the Police Department.

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The city brought in some high-powered — and expensive — names to clean house and set the course correction, but once their jobs are done, what then? Do we just take our hands off the wheel and hope the vehicle stays on course?

Allowing oversight to settle back into a status quo model would be a mistake. And assigning a City Council member to be a "liaison" to the police commission isn't the kind of change we're talking about.

It's time to seriously talk about granting the police commission some real authority — to call for reports, to initiate investigations, to inquire and follow up on public complaints, and to do it all without needing the green light from the City Council.

They should also play a prominent role in setting department policy.

The public police forums organized by the LAPD work because Los Angeles residents have a verifiable say in what goes on. There is no avenue for that public participation in Burbank.

It's time to create one via the police commission.

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