Report tallies alleged gripes against Burbank Police

Burbank police closed 67 internal investigations last year that centered around allegations — initiated internally as well as by the public — against 104 sworn and civilian employees, officials said.

According to a report released this week by the Burbank Police Department, 173 allegations were made against police personnel, though just 51 were sustained, meaning that officials had sufficient evidence to establish that misconduct occurred.

Of the total, 128 allegations came from the public and involved 66 employees, while 45 allegations were made internally and involved 38 employees, said Burbank Police Lt. Armen Dermenjian. Most of the employees were sworn officers.

Just fewer than 10% of the allegations made by the public were sustained, while nearly 90% of the allegations made internally were sustained, according to the report.

This marks the first year that officials have released these statistics, which is a requirement for the department to become certified through the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies, said Burbank Police Chief Scott LaChasse.

Disciplinary measures for the sustained allegations reportedly range from having to undergo extra training or receiving a written reprimand to suspension or termination, though officials did not release specific data on this.

Of the total allegations, 55 — all but two of which were initiated by the public — were determined to be unfounded, while 39 — all of which were a result of citizen complaints — were found to have occurred, but the action was deemed justified, the report stated.

The remaining 28 allegations, the majority coming from the public, were not sustained, meaning that there was insufficient evidence in the case.

More than half of the allegations involved complaints that an employee was discourteous or violated the department's policies or rules, the report stated.

Eight of the allegations centered around excessive use of force, while five centered around discrimination or harassment. Of those 13, which all came from the public, none were sustained.

Meanwhile, eight internal allegations were made for abuse of city equipment, all of which were sustained, according to the document.

"I think we're trending well. In this business you're always going to have issues that come up that need to be addressed," LaChasse said. "The real hallmark of an organization, because these things are going to occur, is how they address these issues."

Last year, two officers were terminated as a result of these investigations.

One was the then-president of the Burbank Police Officers' Assn., Mark Armendariz, who was fired last July for reasons officials have declined to divulge, though he is now suing the city for retaliation.

The second was Anthony Valento, who was forced to resign amid a federal corruption investigation. Valento is currently serving a 30-month prison sentence for lying to federal authorities during the investigation.

Citizen complaint numbers have reportedly dropped compared to previous years, which LaChasse attributed in part to officers' use of voice recorders when they interact with the public.

"It gets back to hiring the right people and getting them properly trained," LaChasse said. "Our objective is to minimize the number of complaints because people are performing to expectations and there's no reason for the department to initiate a complaint or a citizen to initiate a complaint."

Roughly 140 employees carry voice recorders, and the sworn personnel that have them — including all police officers, detectives, as well as all sergeants and lieutenants in the patrol and detective divisions — are mandated to record every interaction with any member of the public, said Deputy Chief Tom Angel.

Civilian employees, like jailers, animal control officers and parking control officers, also have the recorders, though they are not required to record every interaction, he added.

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