Burbank city manager declines reinstatement of fired officer

Burbank's top executive declined to reinstate a former Burbank police officer despite an independent arbitrator's advisory ruling that the former officer should get his job back, records show.

Mike 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 disclose a use-of-force complaint reported to him by a robbery suspect tied to the 2007 Porto's Bakery robbery, and of subsequently lying to investigators a year and a half later to cover up the alleged misconduct.

In an 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.

But after reviewing the case, City Manager Mark Scott declined to do so, citing in his decision that he did not find Reyes to be credible.

While Prihar's opinion was that Reyes could not recall details because so much time had passed, Scott wrote that Reyes "chose to maintain silence (i.e., lack of recollection) thereby covering up allegations of unnecessary force by another officer," according to his six-page decision obtained by the Burbank Leader.

Scott declined to comment on the case.

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 robbery three days earlier. Alvarenga had nothing to do with the robbery, as police had confused him with the actual suspect who had a similar name. During the interview with Reyes and another detective, Alvarenga reportedly complained of excessive force by other officers.

In April of 2009, another detective came forward with information suggesting officers were involved in excessive force during the robbery investigation and then attempted to cover up the misconduct during initial internal affairs investigations.

Reyes, the arbitrator noted, had not even been interviewed during the initial investigation.

When Reyes was interviewed 18 months after the incident during a later internal investigation, he couldn't recall details of the case, but testified that if he had been alerted to a use-of-force complaint, he would have told his sergeant, according to the arbitrator's decision.

But Scott wrote in his decision that Reyes was untruthful, as his testimony changed over the course of three internal affairs interviews between August 2009 and January 2010 during which he was asked about Alvarenga.

"The inference is that Reyes is not truthful about what he observed or at the very least demonstrates incompetence as a trained police officer," Scott wrote in his opinion.

Reyes' attorney Paul DePasquale said he intends to file a writ in which he will ask the courts to review and reverse Scott's decision. He has 90 days to do so.

"I'm pretty disappointed — I expected Mike might get his job back based on what the arbitrator concluded...and the facts of the case," DePasquale said.