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Police Chief: overhaul in progress

Burbank Police Department faces changes brought on by myriad investigations and lawsuits

September 06, 2011|By Maria Hsin, maria.hsin@latimes.com
  • Burbank Police Chief Scott LaChasse goes over ceremony notes with Burbank Mayor Jess Talamantes just before going on stage at the National Night Out event in Burbank on Chandler Blvd on Tuesday, August 2, 2011. (Tim Berger/Staff Photographer)
Burbank Police Chief Scott LaChasse goes over ceremony…

Twenty months into the job as police chief, Burbank’s top cop continues working to modernize a department besieged by lawsuits and investigations into misconduct and excessive use of force by the FBI and Los Angeles County sheriff's department.

Now, Burbank Police Chief Scott LaChasse says the department continues to make strides as it works through an updated plan for internal changes. The City Council is slated to review the final version in the coming weeks as City Hall continues to identify its work priorities for the coming year.

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FOR THE RECORD: This corrects an earlier version that gave the incorrect length of time on the job for LaChasse.

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For LaChasse, it’s been a constant grind to revamp a department in turmoil, with former and current police officers also filing lawsuits alleging sexual harassment, retaliatory firings and racism.

When he came onboard, the FBI was examining the role of excessive force dating back to 2003 and the department's handling of at least two incidents from 2007, including the robbery of Porto's Bakery. In October 2009, Sgt. Neil Gunn, Sr. committed suicide on a public street. He was among 12 officers who were being investigated by the FBI for possible civil rights violations and excessive use of force.  

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Also that year, the previous police chief requested L.A. County sheriff's officials investigate two allegations of police misconduct.

FBI spokeswoman Laura Eimiller said this week that the agency’s investigation remained ongoing, but could not comment on the specifics of the case.

As the city deals with the legal ramifications and the department wades through cultural changes and policy shifts, LaChasse and other top brass are continuing to push the department forward.

The Strategic Plan essentially sets the direction for the department and its many moving parts. It’s also in response to the Police Department reform package that updated the use-of-force policy and revised the discipline system, among other changes, LaChasse said.

Technology can aid in tracking complaints against an officer and provide an early warning system that allows supervisors to know when they need to sit down with an officer, LaChasse said.

Another important aspect is training.

“Training, training, training,” LaChasse said, citing the need for interpersonal and motor skills training. He stressed the importance of staying ahead of the curve.

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