For far too long the role of Burbank Police Commission members involved little more than keeping their chairs warm.
And though more active today in the wake of department scandal, the commission should be encouraged to continue its evolution with broader oversight powers and more effective procedures for hearing and handling complaints.
For starters, Commissioner Jim Etter would like individual city e-mail accounts for members to replace the single commission account currently administered from within police headquarters. That is, the very body residents would be writing to complain about.
That's right: Send a complaint about police to the police commission, and that e-mail is first read and then distributed to commission members by an assistant to the chief of police.
"You can't communicate with me individually without going through the Police Department, and we're supposed to be here if you have a complaint against the police," said Etter, a retired motion picture lighting technician.
Nonetheless, Etter believes the commission has made much progress since his appointment last year, when during one seemingly pointless meeting he abandoned his chair in frustration. A weekly Boy Scout troop meeting was being held the same night, he said, "and I walked out because they were doing more at the Boy Scout meeting. I taught three kids how to tie a square knot."
At that time the commission met quarterly, not monthly, and according to Etter city officials routinely prevented commissioners from receiving the most basic information — even documents later obtained by citizens through Public Information Act requests — and quashed early requests to set a town hall meeting.