On Tuesday, Burbank Police Chief Scott LaChasse will trade in his badge and gun for a stack of travel brochures.
The Santa Clarita resident has spent several decades working in law enforcement, including more than 11 years leading the Burbank Police Department. Over time, LaChasse said, he’s collected plenty of Smithsonian and National Geographic magazines, filling his mind with images of travel destinations he’s wanted to visit but never had the time.
After his retirement next week, he will. His role will be filled by current Deputy Chief Michael Albanese until City Manager Justin Hess selects a long-term replacement.
On the same night the Burbank City Council designated February as Black History Month for the first time, the panel heard a commission’s recommendation to establish an annual appreciation day for local police officers. The council quickly moved over the recommendation without adopting it, but some of the nearly 40 people who called during the public comment period for Tuesday’s meeting were frustrated it was included at all, pointing to Black History Month’s significance. It was one of several grievances expressed that night regarding the Police Commission’s recommendations. The meeting, which stretched past midnight — forcing officials to push the planned discussion of homelessness to a future date — served as the culmination of months of work by the Police Commission to generate recommendations for the Burbank Police Department, a task the City Council charged the advisory body with following the death of George Floyd and widespread calls for police reform. But when those recommendations were presented to the council, many residents took issue with their content, particularly with the advice that the school resource officer program — which assigns two specialized officers to the local school district — be retained or expanded. Several callers said they were concerned that the program intimidates and criminalizes students, particularly students of color, with some alumni saying they or their children had bad experiences with the officers.
After weeks of pressure from some residents — and a bit of backlash from others — the Burbank City Council directed municipal staff members to create a fine enforcing face covering guidelines. The staff still needs to draft an order that the city manager will give, but it will be shaped according to directions the council gave on Tuesday. Notably, the order will not be administered by the Burbank Police Department, something the agency strongly opposed when the matter was raised at previous meetings.
Last month, reports of crimes committed in Burbank dropped to the lowest levels since April, as some studies argue that the COVID-19 pandemic is driving down certain types of crimes throughout the nation. Overall, reports of so-called Part 1 offenses — a range of violent and property-related crimes — in July dropped about 15.8% from June, from 241 to 203, according to data recently published on the Burbank Police Department website. Last month’s total was also the lowest since April, which had 165 reports of Part 1 crimes. The short-term decrease in incidents, meanwhile, is echoed in a longer-term statistic. With a total of 1,545 reported crimes from January to July, this year is showing the lowest number of offenses since 2013, when 1,508 occurred within the same six-month period. Thefts, by far the most common type of crime occurring in Burbank, also fell 9%, from 143 cases in June to 130 in July.
While protesters marched through the streets of Burbank this week with cries of “Defund the police” and “This is what democracy looks like,” the City Council heard from residents concerned about their local Police Department.
The virtual council meeting took place as protesters assembled in front of the Men’s Wearhouse at the Empire Center, one of several demonstrations that have arisen in Burbank while hundreds have been held across the country to demand police reform and justice for black people killed by officers.
Those demands were echoed at the council meeting, with residents requesting that members review the Burbank Police Department’s budget and use-of-force policies.
However, those matters, which were brought up after a brief report from Chief Scott LaChasse, were not addressed by council members during Tuesday’s meeting.
“It is important for us to be clear and specific right now, because we are at a pivotal moment in history,” said Heather Robb, who called in from the protest to comment at the meeting. “I hope this moment does for Burbank what we see it doing in cities all over our country, causing us to examine and reflect on the role that police play in our communities.”
Robb also asked the council to revisit the department’s budget, saying that the percentage of funds allocated to it does not reflect the community’s values. The department’s $61.76 million general fund budget is about 31% of the city’s total proposed general fund budget for the 2020-21 fiscal year, though city staff members have previously warned that there remain many financial unknowns due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Sgt. Derek Green, public information officer for the BPD, said in an emailed statement that “the Burbank Police Department believes that adequate training and equipping of police officers is essential to public safety and safeguarding our community. Training and equipment comes at an expense. Any reductions in funding would have a detrimental effect on the Department’s ability to continue on its path of progressive law enforcement reform.” Continue reading “Police, City Council Address Oversight Concerns”