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Police officials split on leadership change

Some want to see LaChasse's team in command longer, but the union has issues.

July 28, 2012|By Maria Hsin, maria.hsin@latimes.com

City Manager Mike Flad's announcement last week that it was “time for a transition” of leadership at a police department barely emerging from years of unrest, officer-involved lawsuits and numerous outside inquiries into the department left some questioning the move because they felt the interim command staff still had plenty of reforms to carry out.

While Interim Burbank Police Chief Scott LaChasse is welcome to apply for the permanent job, Flad last week said that “the timing is right, the pieces are in place,” and that it was time for a transition, citing the momentum created by myriad reforms put in place over the past 21/2 years.

LaChasse, who was initially hired on a six-month contract, was praised for assembling the top-level command staff and department's organizational structure and increasing accountability and external oversight, among other achievements.

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Police Commissioner Tom Bruehl said he would prefer to continue uninterrupted by a new leader and said commissioners had just begun the process of reviewing how police are implementing and adhering to the goals in its Strategic Plan.

“My personal preference would be to keep the present chief for a while longer, simply because we are in transition on a lot of issues,” Bruehl said. “To keep him longer means making him permanent, and maybe that's the better choice right now.”

LaChasse has not said whether he intends to apply for the permanent position.

Sgt. Robert Quesada, a 30-year veteran and former spokesman for the department who is now in air support, said he was surprised to hear the news.

“We are moving in the right direction when it comes to training and being more open with the public and being more transparent,” Quesada said. “It was kind of surprising that in the middle of what we're doing that they are looking to bring somebody in to replace him.

“We got momentum going, and now all of a sudden we want to bring in a new chief? I was disappointed — I thought they were going to stick with the chief.”

But that sentiment does not appear to be shared by the police union's leadership.

Burbank Police Officers Assn. Vice President Claudio Losacco said the union backed Flad's decision for a transition, citing all of the attention put on administrative and internal changes that has detracted from the department's focus on operations.

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