First published in the Sept. 25 print issue of the Burbank Leader.
The Burbank Police Department said it is evaluating an incident, partially captured on video, in which officers did not arrest a man whose wife said he violated a restraining order she had obtained.
The video, posted to TikTok last week by user mybertie430, appears to show portions of a woman’s conversation with two Burbank officers regarding what she said was her husband’s appearance at her home. In the video, which was edited — it is occasionally interrupted by text and images of a protective order form — the woman questions them from behind the camera on why they haven’t arrested the man.
Neither the woman nor her husband was identified in the video or by police.
Local police received a report on Sept. 16 that alleged the husband entered the woman’s residence in violation of a restraining order, BPD spokesman Sgt. Emil Brimway said in an email. He added that the personnel took a violation report but chose not to arrest the husband, a former Burbank police officer, whom he confirmed police allowed to leave. Brimway added that the case was referred to the City Attorney’s Office, which will determine whether to file criminal charges.
“The department is reviewing the incident, which was recorded on multiple body-worn cameras, to determine if the actions taken by its employees were appropriate,” Brimway said.
A representative of the City Attorney’s Office was not available for comment this week.
Near the beginning of the video, the woman tells the officers that her husband has thrown items at her and broke her arm in the past. One of the two officers can be heard asking the woman why she decided to return to her residence if her husband is abusive.
“This is my house, this is my apartment,” the woman replies in the video. “Why is he not in jail? Why is he still coming back? That should be the question: ‘If you’re going to hurt her, why do you keep going back to the apartment?’ Not the other way around.”
“OK, so you knew he was here and you still came back here,” one of the officers is heard responding.
Later in the video, the woman is heard asking the two officers if they would arrest her husband if they caught him breaking into her residence.
“We can’t deal in what-ifs,” one says.
Text slides in the video claim that the officers told her husband to leave the residence rather than arresting him, but that he sent her “several threatening messages” and returned less than 30 minutes later.
The TikTok account user did not respond to a request for a statement, though in the video’s comments section the user said the officers should be fired.
Brimway said that the department has received multiple calls for service — mostly related to “domestic disturbances” — involving the couple over the past several years, and that the husband is a former Burbank officer who was fired in 2014 and later prosecuted for allegedly lying to the FBI. (Brimway did not say how that matter concluded, and since the husband was not identified the Leader was unable to confirm details.) In the recent episode at the woman’s home, the husband left while the officers were still at the residence, he noted.
An infant was at the residence, Brimway also confirmed.
Police can arrest or fine someone for violating a judge’s restraining order, according to the California courts website. California’s penal code requires law enforcement to arrest a person, “absent exigent circumstances,” who has knowingly broken a protective order if there is probable cause.
Those orders are often violated, according to Iliana Tavera, executive director of Canoga Park domestic violence shelter Haven Hills. Her organization tells survivors to contact law enforcement if they need protection, she added, and to call the county’s services hotline at 211 to be connected with a shelter.
“Which is why it was so hard to watch the video, because she did what she was supposed to,” Tavera said, though she added that the video shows only part of the interaction. “[A restraining order is] ultimately a piece of paper, and it’s only worth as much as it is enforced.”
Burbank police have made arrests for restraining order violations in other cases — including on Sept. 16. Arrest records for that day show that officers arrested a local man for allegedly violating an emergency protective order by contacting his ex-girlfriend via phone, text and in person. The man admitted to police that law enforcement had already told him about the protective order, according to Brimway.
But the TikTok video, which had well over 150,000 views this week and was shared to Twitter and Facebook, has enraged many local community members. Several said online that the officers dismissed the woman’s concerns by not arresting her husband.
Tavera said the video appeared to show some victim-blaming from the officers against the woman, something the shelter director described as one of the most frustrating aspects of her field. But Haven Hills President Linda Bessin, a Burbank resident, also emphasized that the video shows only part of the exchange. More information — and perhaps education for Burbank officers — is needed, she and Tavera said.
“We want to hear from the department, we don’t want to automatically condemn,” Bessin said. “It is an excerpt in what is a very complex situation.”