LaChasse on permanent Burbank police chief appointment: I'm 'delighted'

Scott LaChasse’s “three-year job interview” has come to an end.

Burbank’s interim police chief — brought to the helm three years ago of a department plagued by allegations of excessive force, discrimination and sexual harassment — was made permanent, effective immediately, officials announced Wednesday.

LaChasse on Wednesday said he was “delighted” with the offer, adding that the new title legitimizes the position and will allow him to continue — and finish — what he came to do.

When he started, LaChasse was charged with stabilizing the culture of the department, which according to a police-commissioned 2010 report, was beset by a “mutual disrespect and distrust” among personnel.

The department is still the subject of a years-long federal investigation into allegations of excessive use of force and misconduct among officers. In recent months, the department has continued to comply with subpoenas tied to the probe, LaChasse said.

During his tenure, the law enforcement veteran instituted several reforms, including strengthening internal affairs investigation procedures, improving officer training and creating contemporary use of force policies and review procedures, said interim City Manager Ken Pulskamp, who made the decision to appoint LaChasse permanently.

The news came just hours after Tuesday’s general election, but Pulskamp said the move had been in the works for a while.

“Really since the day I got here, I’ve been sizing up Scott,” Pulskamp said. “He’s essentially had a three-year job interview — he’s come through with flying colors.”

In September, former City Manager Mike Flad suspended the search for a permanent chief after officials and community members said it was nonsensical to hire a replacement at the time given that Flad was leaving his Burbank post to assume the same role in South Gate.

But Pulskamp, who’s been filling in temporarily since December, is also on his way out. Officials expect to pick a new city manager in June, and Pulskamp said he doesn’t intend to apply.

But Pulskamp also said waiting for a new city manager would likely have delayed hiring a permanent police chief by more than a year. And spending resources on recruitment was unnecessary “when we had somebody who was being so effective,” he said.

With a leadership reorganization, the department may have plunged into “further levels of instability,” he added.

LaChasse agreed.

“It would be dysfunctional to break the team up and go in different direction at this time,” he said.

That team includes two captains and a deputy chief LaChasse recruited three years ago, who were also hired permanently in October. The move ticked off the police union president at the time, which argued the move passed over qualified internal candidates.

Mark Armendariz, president of the Burbank Police Officers’ Assn., said he was “completely caught by surprise” by the LaChasse announcement.

“It is very disappointing that the City Council and city manager did not follow through with the normal and accepted vetting process which began last fall,” he said in an email. “With that being said, the BPOA will continue to work toward the goal of continuing to provide the residents of Burbank with the level of police service they are accustomed to. We wish Chief LaChasse well.”

Council-elect Bob Frutos — who in the late 1980s worked under LaChasse as an LAPD officer — said he was thrilled with the decision. Frutos had pushed for making LaChasse the permanent chief on the campaign trail.

During LaChasse’s 30 years with LAPD, he was committed to coaching young officers, a skill he has maintained in Burbank, Frutos said.

According to his contract, LaChasse will make $16,772.99 a month in the new role, which is roughly 5% more than his current salary.

-- Alene Tchekmedyian,

Follow on Google+ and on Twitter: @atchek.

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