City, police union butt heads

City executives have rejected a grievance filed by the city’s police union that claims the reorganization of the Burbank Police Department has dramatically reduced staffing levels, affected officer response times and distressed the workforce. They did so on the grounds that the grievance was improperly filed.

Mark Armendariz, president of the Burbank Police Officers Assn., filed the grievance on April 18 with Interim Police Chief Scott LaChasse, contending reorganization of the patrol and investigative divisions reduced staffing levels to the point of affecting officer response times and causing distress among employees.

Armendariz cited the formation of the Crime Impact Team Detail, continued vacancies in key positions, lack of direct supervision out in the field and other staffing changes as being detrimental.

“This is a continuing unsatisfactory working condition that causes personal and professional stress for our personnel,” Armendariz wrote in his complaint. “It places our employees, the organization and community at greater risk of incurring liability stemming from a law enforcement action.”

LaChasse responded to the union’s letter two weeks later, referring to the issues as “management prerogative and, therefore, not grievable.”

City Manager Mike Flad also referred to the grievance as procedurally incorrect, since the police officers association filed it under a city administrative procedure that only applies to employees not represented by a union.

In addressing the police grievance at the Civil Service Board meeting on Wednesday, Terry Stevenson, senior assistant city attorney, said LaChasse and Flad “probably took one look at it and said this is totally invalid.”

Civil Service Board members agreed that they had no jurisdiction in the matter since the Burbank Police Officers Assn. was a bargaining group subject to the terms of its contract with the city.

The board is responsible for reviewing appeals regarding working conditions for city employees, unless otherwise stated in their union agreements.

If the police union decides to re-file the grievance under the proper rules and LaChasse maintains his position, it will first go to Management Services before requiring a mediator to discuss the issues.

Representatives for the police union declined to comment on the grievance, or whether it would be re-filed.

According to the grievance, a new schedule for patrol officers was implemented at the same time as the new detail, which reduced staffing by 25%, in addition to working without two of four assigned Watch Commanders. It also states that the investigative division was working with 31 sworn staff members in 2010 compared to 42 in 2009.

The department still has seven officer vacancies, according to information reported during the recent city budget study sessions.

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