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Police Commission focuses on change

Group examines ways to improve its effect on the department and community.

September 17, 2010|By Gretchen Meier,

The Burbank Police Commission on Wednesday did some soul searching during a public forum in which members pressed forward with defining their roles for the future.

Several commissioners, including Jim Etter, who has been among the most vocal in his calls for changing the powers of the body, will be meeting with Police Chief Scott LaChasse as an ad hoc committee to address their concerns.

The commission has long criticized its own inability to effect any real change on police department policy or affairs. It endured a several-month process last year simply to gain the authority to determine the frequency and site of its meetings.

"We want to know how we can we make your job easier," Commissioner Ray Adams told the police chief. "We want to know what the community sees as our role, and if that means we become obsolete, then so be it."

Just a handful of people attended the meeting, and most of those were fixtures at City Hall.


"Unfortunately, the meeting doesn't have big attendance, and that's a problem," LaChasse said. "The body is really a work in progress."

Burbank's city Charter gives the Police Commission the power to initiate studies and surveys, conduct hearings and investigations at the request of the council, act in an advisory capacity to the council, field non-traffic-related complaints and examine department records that aren't deemed confidential.

But given the community concerns regarding myriad police allegations of misconduct and internal strife, commissioners have sought more oversight authority.

Without additional powers granted by the City Council and an amendment to the city's Charter, the commission does not have the power to act outside of an advisory role. All requests and recommendations must be first presented to the City Council outside of the listed powers.

Adams was open to the idea of putting a board of professionals in place to advise the department, with support from Commissioner Elise Stearns-Niesen.

Goal-setting from all commissioners will remain a continuing agenda item for discussion at future meetings.

The commission plans to discuss the possibility of obtaining their own city e-mails, since official contact from the public must now be funneled mostly through the Police Department. Commissioners also plan to discuss recommending the purchase of new technology for the department and the desire to be briefed on crime statistics to better recognize citywide trends.

LaChasse and his staff are also slated to present a prioritized wish list about what the department wants and needs in order to be more effective in the community.

"I heard from no one say that they were glad the council raised the general manager of Burbank Water and Power's salary," Commissioner Jim Etter said. "But they do want cameras in the police cars. We need to get forceful about getting them the tools they need."

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