The former Burbank detective who an arbitrator ruled shouldn’t have been fired in the wake of a Porto’s Bakery robbery investigation was identified recently in arbitration records as Mike Reyes.
Reyes, who joined the Burbank Police Department in 2000 after five years with the Los Angeles Police Department, was fired in June of 2010 after city officials accused him of failing to report a use-of-force complaint reported to him by a robbery suspect in 2007, and of subsequently lying to investigators a year and a half later to cover up the alleged misconduct.
But in his advisory decision, arbitrator Michael Prihar said Reyes’ testimony — which he gave 18 months after the alleged misconduct — was genuine and credible, and recommended that the former detective be reinstated, as well as recover any loss of income or benefits since his termination.
“There is no credible evidence to suggest that any inconsistencies are attributable to anything other than failures in memory. (Reyes) had no intent to deceive,” Prihar wrote.
Reyes interviewed Jose Noe Alvarenga, the alleged victim of excessive force, following the man’s arrest on Dec. 31, 2007 in connection with the Porto’s Bakery robbery three days earlier. Alvarenga actually had nothing to do with the robbery, as it was later determined that a person with a similar name was the actual suspect.
Reyes wasn’t the lead interviewer and therefore didn’t write the report on the interview.
In April of 2009, another detective came forward with information suggesting officers were involved in excessive force against Alvarenga during his arrest and then attempted to cover up the misconduct during initial internal affairs investigations that took place in the months after the robbery.
Reyes had not even been interviewed during the initial investigation, the ruling stated.
So when Reyes was interviewed 18 months after the incident during a second internal investigation, he couldn’t recall details of the case, the document said. He testified that if he had been alerted to a use-of-force complaint, he would have told his sergeant.
Reyes’ attorney, Paul DePasquale, said the arbitrator’s “fresh look” at the case gives him hope that the former officer won’t have to fight the city in court.
“We’ve really felt for a long time that this thing should be resolved in Mike Reyes’ favor,” DePasquale said.
City Manager Mark Scott has 30 days from his receipt of the report — which Scott said was roughly a week ago — to make a final determination on whether to uphold Reyes’ termination.
Reyes was one of 10 officers who lost their jobs as a result of alleged misconduct stemming from the investigation. All but one of them appealed their terminations.
One of them — Omar Rodriguez — dropped all claims against the city and gave up his administrative appeal more than a year ago, with the city also agreeing to dismiss its cross complaint against him, records show.
A second officer, Elfego Rodriguez, has continued to fight the city in court after an arbitrator sided with the city in his appeal. A hearing on the matter is slated for November.
More than three years after the officers’ firings, six cases remain pending.