Chief of Police Scott LaChasse Speaks on Retiring after Nearly 12 Years with the Burbank Police Department

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( Photo by © Ross A Benson)

After over a decade of leading the Burbank Police Department and 51 total years in law enforcement, Scott LaChasse will soon retire from his position as Burbank Chief of Police. 

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The City of Burbank announced LaChasse’s retirement with a press release on Thursday, May 27, stating that his last day on the job will be July 6.

Before joining the Los Angeles Police Department in 1970, LaChasse contributed to the agency as a part-time police student worker while attending college. His long-term goal at the time was to work for the FBI, which came with the prerequisite of demonstrating a significant amount of leadership skills. Young officers often exhibited leadership through teaching, coaching, or joining the military, the latter of which LaChasse had in mind before early experience with local law enforcement altered his career course. 

“As soon as I got involved as a police student worker in Los Angeles, it was overpowering,” LaChasse said. “It was the opportunity to work in diverse communities and not to have to go to an office and do the same thing on a repetitive basis. I just enjoyed the challenges. I enjoyed working with the people.”

Chief Scott LaChasse looks at some of the memorabilia and awards he’s collected over his 11 years at Burbank Police Dept. (Photo by © Ross A Benson)

LaChasse went on to spend over 32 years with the LAPD, where he retired as Deputy Chief in 2002 and oversaw around 1800 personnel in his final assignment. He next moved on with roles at Paramount Pictures as Vice President of Studio Protection, and later as Manager of Regulatory Compliance for Southern California Edison. 

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By 2010, when LaChasse joined the BPD, the FBI was investigating the department for numerous incidents, including the mishandling of a robbery case at Porto’s Bakery dating back to 2007. The L.A. County Sheriff’s Department was likewise probing cases of misconduct reported by the BPD’s previous police chief, and in 2009, Sgt. Neil Gunn, Sr., who was among the officers being investigated by the FBI, took his own life on a public street. 

While he had no prior plans of returning to public law enforcement, circumstances in Burbank called for a strong, new department leader, and LaChasse’s name was one brought up by city staff seeking out a new police chief. After a competitive hiring process, LaChasse’s expertise and success in his field earned him the then-expected interim position of BPD Chief of Police.

“I had never intended to get back into real law enforcement again on the public side of the street,” LaChasse said. “I had made the transition successfully to the private side of the street and enjoyed what I was doing. But after a while, the adrenaline started flowing again as I looked at the state of the department and I… said, I can do this. I can make a difference. I can make the contributions that are necessary.”

When LaChasse was officially appointed as Burbank Chief of Police on January 7, 2010, it was with the understanding that the role would only last for a total of six months. However, this time frame continuously expanded as LaChasse’s improvements to the BPD were recognized by the City of Burbank and the police department.

The oath of office is issued by LA District Attorney Jackie Lacy to Chief Scott LaChasse. (Photo by Ross A. Benson)

The objective of advancing the BPD started with drafting their strategic plan, in which LaChasse formed a concise mission statement and emphasized the department’s three core values of respect, integrity, and excellence. Other areas covered were technology, community relations, new policies, and contemporary police practices. Action items were outlined in these writings and set with a completion date, each of which was assigned to BPD captains to assure their timely fulfillment.

The U.S. Constitution and Law Enforcement Code of Ethics served as foundational principles of conduct for BPD officers due to LaChasse’s impact. The Constitution now adorns walls within BPD Headquarters to make it well-known that officers are working not only to enforce the law, but also to uphold the rights of the people they serve. Furthermore, copies of the code of ethics and Constitution are distributed independently to all new BPD members and promoted employees.

Throughout his 11 and a half years with the BPD, introductions from LaChasse have included deployment of in-car and body-worn camera systems, the BPD’s accreditation through the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies, and utilization of public audits from the Office of Independent Review. During his tenure in Burbank, the City’s police department has undergone such evaluations to ensure that BPD officers are always adapting in the face of the ever-evolving society they serve. 

Chief LaChasse displays one of the new body worn cameras all officers wear. ( Photo by © Ross A Benson)

“In this business and in your personal [and] professional lives, you never arrive,” LaChasse said. “We are working in such a dynamic environment that if you’re not on your competitive best every day, you fall behind. So you have to continuously improve.”

Diversity levels amongst BPD staff were substandard when LaChasse arrived as police chief, and he has subsequently shifted focus towards diversification in the department’s recruitment efforts. The BPD has seen growth in this area, and they were reported as a 39% diverse staff in March of 2021. LaChasse hopes this diversity continues to flourish, especially amongst recruits whose goal is to stay with the department long-term.

“It’s growing considerably,” LaChasse said of BPD diversity. “We have made inroads into recruiting people that represent all ethnicities and genders. And to me,…that’s an imperative…You’ve got to be affirmative about it and reach out and encourage people to apply.”

A meaningful memento from LaChasse’s time in Burbank will be his initiative in ensuring the BPD’s participation in community events. Whether attending a local fundraiser, safety training developments, or celebratory gatherings, BPD personnel were always ready to accept invites to Burbank ceremonies, thanks in large part to LaChasse’s influence.

“I like to say, ‘To know us is to love us,’” LaChasse said of BPD community involvement. “The way I tried to frame it to our staff was that…we needed to be out there…When somebody asked, we were there.”

The Burbank Police Department’s Community Academy expanded under LaChasse’s leadership to include a curriculum for Spanish and Armenian speakers, as well as the deaf community. He also encouraged BPD staff to get involved in local organizations such as the Burbank Family Service Agency and the Boys and Girls Club of Burbank and the Greater East Valley for a more inclusive police department culture. 

“We are the police department to the entire community, not just the people that live on the hill or the people that work in the media district,” LaChasse said. “There are a lot of other parts of the community that need to be heard from.”

The Burbank Mental Health Evaluation Team was brought to the city under LaChasse in 2012 and uses an efficient co-response model in their system. Through BMHET, a BPD officer and a Los Angeles County Department of Mental Health clinical psychologist respond to calls that involve mental health concerns. LaChasse and Deputy Chief Mike Albanese, whom LaChasse appointed after joining the BPD, were instrumental in creating this program to address the growing trends of mental wellness cases being presented to the BPD. The City has recently pondered expanding the program, which will be a fundamental part of the legacy LaChasse leaves with the police department.

(Photo by Ross A. Benson)

“It used to be that a lot of people tried to hide mental illness. If it was in your family, it was viewed as a negative,” LaChasse said. “And now I think there’s greater acceptance… I think particularly at the outset, after the program garnered publicity, people understood that there are resources there and we can deal with this.”

Although LaChasse will soon be retiring from his role as Chief of Police, he will continue to serve as a member of numerous organizations and volunteer in the Burbank community. Along with holding Board of Directors positions with the Los Angeles Police Museum and Challengers Boys & Girls Club, LaChasse has dedicated time to such groups as Peace Officers Association of Los Angeles County, Burbank Noon Rotary Club, FBI National Academy Associates, and the International Association of Chiefs of Police. 

Philanthropic organizations such as the Burbank Temporary Aid Center and Family Service Agency of Burbank define what the City is all about for LaChasse. The BPD has regularly given back to these groups, and donates, in a joint effort with the Burbank Police Officers’ Association, an annual sum of funds to BTAC around Thanksgiving time. These positive exchanges with people who are dedicated to giving back to the community stand out as a special memory as LaChasse reflects on his time with the City.

“Burbank is unique. You really have a lot of involved caring, giving people [here],” LaChasse said. “In many respects, that defines Burbank.”

Following over five decades in law enforcement, LaChasse says it’s “bittersweet” to be wrapping up his position with the BPD.  Regardless of the professional title he has held, LaChasse’s ambition has remained as using his authority to help serve others in the same way he was guided along his personal and professional journey.

“I look back and I’m probably a better person primarily because teachers saw things in me that I didn’t see in myself and they were able to challenge me,” LaChasse said. “And I think I became a better person for that…So, I  always want to help other people.”

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