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City mulls extra eyes on police

Officials suggest hiring consultants to make sure department is progressing.

November 15, 2011|By Maria Hsin, maria.hsin@latimes.com
  • Officer Berry Smith practiced a pursuit during a police training, which took place at the Starlight Bowl in Burbank on Wednesday, November 2, 2011. The Burbank Police Department holds a monthly training. Over 35 members of the department practiced better communication with specific scenarios that were played out during the training. (Cheryl A. Guerrero/Staff Photographer)
Officer Berry Smith practiced a pursuit during a police…

City officials are recommending that the City Council hire two outside consultants to ensure that the Burbank Police Department emerges from officer misconduct investigations on solid footing.

In his report to the Police Commission and City Council, which are scheduled to hold a joint meeting today, City Manager Mike Flad recommends hiring consultants Mike Gennaco and Robert Corbin for three years to oversee the implementation of the department's 2011 Strategic Plan to “ensure [the department's] ongoing efficacy” and review officer conduct cases. The report does not mention the potential costs involved.

In October, Police Chief Scott LaChasse and other top police officials presented the 2011 Strategic Plan, essentially a road map for the department that addresses cultural changes, as well as administrative and operational goals.

Gennaco heads the Los Angeles County Office of Independent Review, which provides civilian oversight of the Sheriff's Department. That department has recently come under fire for mistreatment of inmates, an issue Gennaco raised but that reportedly was ignored by Sheriff's officials, some two years ago.

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If the recommendations are approved, Gennaco's responsibilities would include randomly selecting a percentage of cases, including those involving officer use of force, for review each year.

Corbin, an attorney who was staff counsel to the Independent Commission on the Los Angeles Police Department (the Christopher Commission), would be responsible for ensuring that the 2011 Strategic Plan is followed, and for presenting the department's progress to the Police Commission, and ultimately the City Council, along with any recommendations.

Additionally, Corbin has ties to the city. His law firm, Corbin, Fitzgerald & Athey, of Los Angeles, was tasked to review the Burbank Use of Force audit. Corbin also assisted the city in evaluating city attorney candidates during the recent recruitment for that position. That recruitment resulted in Amy Albano being hired to fill the position.

The department is trying to move forward despite lawsuits by former and current police officers alleging retaliatory firing, racism and sexual harassment. Burbank officials requested a Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department investigation several years ago, and the FBI is probing claims of excessive force and other allegations.

Following an internal investigation into allegations of excessive force that began in 2008, 10 employees have been terminated.

Police last month acknowledged that dealing with an increase in mental-health-related calls, transporting people to Glendale's jail and responding to FBI subpoenas was taking its toll, but stopped short of recommending an increase in personnel.

While crews fix construction issues at the police building in Burbank, Glendale is temporarily handling police bookings.

In his presentation to the council, LaChasse said independent oversight of the department and making sure the strategic plan was being followed would help the department maintain modern policing standards.

LaChasse has also said another key to moving forward is through national accreditation via the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies.

Having an outside agency review the department's work and find that the department is operating properly would add credibility, he added.

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