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Independent report on Burbank police: Change will be 'uncomfortable for some'

Study finds some protocols lacking but notes improved police transparency.

November 23, 2012|By Alene Tchekmedyian, alene.tchekmedyian@latimes.com

A recent report on the Burbank Police Department's internal and use-of-force investigations found deficiencies in timeliness, evidence-gathering and spotting problems.

Released on Tuesday, the report — the first since the city hired the Los Angeles County Office of Independent Review last year for continued departmental oversight — comes after a tumultuous time for a department that is still reeling from excessive force allegations and officer-involved lawsuits, as well as a federal investigation into alleged officer misconduct.

Despite the deficiencies, authors of the report noted some improvements when compared to “below base line” cases from previous years.

“The consensus we found, generally speaking, was that the efforts by your police department were really an objective search for truth,” said Michael Gennaco, chief attorney for the review board, which primarily oversees the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department. “That doesn't mean every investigation was perfect.”

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The team of attorneys reviewed six internal investigations and 11 use-of-force incidents that were closed this year.

Gennaco's biggest concern was the length of time it took to complete the investigations. Of the six internal investigations reviewed, one — which consisted of just four interviews — had expired. The officer was never disciplined for failing to document a sexual battery allegation because the investigation wasn't finished on time.

State law gives officials one year to complete internal investigations.

“The worst thing you want to do is have an officer who should have been held accountable not be held accountable because of a technicality,” Gennaco said.

In another case, an officer was interviewed eight months after the incident in question and couldn't recall the details, making it difficult “to challenge the officer,” Gennaco added.

The majority of the investigations, however, were completed within a few months of the incident.

Interim Police Chief Scott LaChasse said the department is implementing changes to address Gennaco's concerns.

“Today, there's probably more strict instruction in terms of taking complaints and doing a full, complete investigation,” LaChasse said.

Overall, the report found that the department's use-of-force response protocols were thoughtful and thorough.

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