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Police face heightened scrutiny

Once deal is done, oversight findings would be made public.

November 20, 2011|By Maria Hsin, maria.hsin@latimes.com

As Burbank moves to increase oversight of its Police Department, which is under federal investigation for officer misconduct and excessive use of force, the issue of transparency has emerged as key part of its strategy.

At a joint meeting this week with the Police Commission, Burbank City Council members endorsed bringing on two well-known outside consultants to monitor the internal affairs of the department, and to make their regular assessments and reports public.

The Police Commission still must hammer out the contract details for the two consultants — Michael Gennaco, who heads the Los Angeles County Office of Independent Review, and Robert Corbin, an attorney who was staff counsel to the Independent Commission on the Los Angeles Police Department.

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Corbin has already worked with Burbank, having been brought on to review the Burbank Use of Force audit and to evaluate city attorney candidates.

Gennaco’s agency provides civilian oversight of the L.A. County Sheriff's Department, which recently has come under fire for mistreatment of inmates. Gennaco raised concerns about the issue some two years ago, but reportedly was ignored by Sheriff's officials.

Police Chief Scott LaChasse said in an email Thursday that his department supported the external oversight.

“Law enforcement professionals consider external oversight to be necessary and proper to maintain accountability, transparency and public confidence,” he said.

Under the preliminary plan, Corbin would oversee the department’s strategic plan, which is being put in place following officer-involved shootings, allegations of excessive use of force and outside investigations by the FBI.

Gennaco would review a percentage of cases that would be randomly selected each year.

During the joint meeting at City Hall Wednesday, council members and commissioners explored the types of cases they would like to see reviewed annually, including use-of-force and fatal incidents, and asked questions of Gennaco, who attended the meeting.

The details of each three-year contract, including cost, will be brought back to the City Council for final approval.

The move would provide the public with a picture of the police department it has yet to see, as the findings of the consultants would be made public.

“I think that has always been the intent,” Councilman Dave Golonski said in an interview.

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