First round of officer discipline notices sent out

DOWNTOWN — An outside investigation into the Burbank Police Department that included allegations of excessive use of force has begun to yield officer discipline notices that could lead to termination.

The notices, which come attached with possible disciplinary measures for corresponding misconduct allegations, represent the first significant fallout of the outside investigation initiated by the city nearly a year ago.

Officers who have received the notices still have the ability to challenge the findings in a meeting with Police Chief Scott LaChasse, which are scheduled to take place in the coming weeks.

“I plan to pay attention to everything that’s said and then make a decision based on that,” LaChasse said.

Citing workplace privacy laws, city officials would not comment on the letters, but police officers close to the situation confirmed that at least 10 had been issued as of Monday.

Officers who received a disciplinary notices and weren’t already on paid leave were walked out of police headquarters last week and assigned to their homes, they said.

If LaChasse determines that it was 51% likely that the officer committed the alleged acts, they would be found guilty. The disciplined officer would then have the ability to take legal action against the city or appeal to an arbitrator, who would make their recommendation to City Manager Mike Flad, officials said.

“I would hope that anyone who makes a decision like this . . . that you’re only guided by the facts and what’s sitting in front of you,” LaChasse said.

The city is expected to send out more notices of proposed discipline as officials comb through the rest of investigator James Gardiner’s reports. The internal investigation, which would remain confidential due to privacy laws, was initiated after former Police Chief Tim Stehr in April learned that earlier probes of excessive use of force may not have been accurate because some officers had been dishonest with investigators.

City officials are on a tight schedule to meet statue of limitations issues that could affect various charges listed in the disciplinary notices. Some officers have already been found to be exempt because too much time has passed, officials said.

The city has taken every effort to make sure that the investigation and its results are objective and fair, and throughout the process, the consistent direction from the City Council was always to “follow the trail wherever it leads,” city spokesman Keith Sterling said in a statement Monday.

Results of the probe were reviewed by members of the city attorney’s office, attorney Richard Kreisler, Merrick Bobb — a veteran of the Christopher Commission, which was set up to address the Rodney King beating — and former U.S. Attorney Debra Wong Yang.

“Our citizens can be assured that the vast majority of the officers in this department are dedicated public servants committed to the safety of Burbank and have served the community with integrity and courage,” Sterling said

Attorneys for some of the officers who were notified of impending discipline declined comment. But Solomon Gresen, who represents six current and former officers in civil discrimination and harassment lawsuits against the department, said he was worried that the process was punishing good police officers.

He declined to say whether any of his clients are facing discipline.

“I am disappointed that the new chief and his administration is continuing the failed policies set in motion by Chief Stehr and his predecessors,” Gresen said.

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