Why the City of Burbank, Police Department and Citizens All Won

(Photo by Ross A. Benson)

Thoughts from the Bullpen

By Craig Sherwood
myBurbank Executive Editor

When Interim Police Chief Scott LaChasse took the oath of office from D.A. Jackie Lacey to become Police Chief Scott LaChasse, a three-and-a-half year wait finally ended signaling that stability had finally come to the police department and the City of Burbank.

Since rumblings and allegations started to become public late in 2008, including a vote of no confidence that was made against then Chief Tim Stehr, a chapter had been written that was as dark as any that dated back to the corruption which rocked the department back in the 1950’s.

Chief LaChasse is not just a good hire for Burbank, but a man who would be in demand in any of the 330 cities in California. When you realize his background started back in his days as the Captain of the 77th precinct in the LAPD and the path he has taken to get to Burbank, you understand that he is not only a professional, but someone with great integrity who believes in and will uphold the law.

The first time we met in January 2010, I felt the presence of a man in charge, but also a man who was confident in himself and what he wanted to accomplish. He did not come on strong and vocal, but as a quiet leader, who first observed the situation, evaluated, and then took the actions that his experience dictated.

The Burbank Police Command Staff is introduced by Chief Scott LaChasse. (Photo b y Ross A. Benson)
The Burbank Police Command Staff is introduced by Chief Scott LaChasse. (Photo b y Ross A. Benson)

Yes, there were some ruffled feathers in the beginning and some controversial firings which are still playing out through the court system. The Burbank Police Officers Association (BPOA) was not happy with the fact that he brought in his own command staff while promoting only one officer from within the department’s ranks.

His command staff, made up of officers from the LAPD and Sheriff’s Department, were given permanent status last year by former City Manager MIke Flad. The BPOA contended that officers from the inside should have been promoted.

While to this day, some members of the BPOA has opposed his hiring, they are in the minority. The command staff that Chief LaChasse has put in place is one of the most professional in Southern California, helping to raise standards and create a professionalism that now resonates throughout the department. Yes, they did come from outside of Burbank, but they quickly came to embrace life in Burbank and the feel of the community. They are not nine to five commanders but rather they are now a part of Burbank and can be seen at any time on any day. There have been numerous times that they take the time out of their day to attend a community event, and not just to make an appearance, but to interact with the community and listen to concerns.

Chief LaChasse has brought professionalism and stability to the department and city. His officers have now started to respond in kind and a new attitude has started to resonate on the streets.  Police officers in Burbank were NEVER bad, there were just a few negative things going on in what might have been called a ‘good ol’ boy’ way of doing things that have now become a thing of the past. There have been many great officers all of these years that had to live through the bad times and were lumped in with the negative. These officers are now at the forefront, continuing to serve and proud to be part of Burbank’s police department.

On a personal note, the relationship between the department and the media has never been better. A day doesn’t go by that someone does not respond to one of us whenever we have a question or need information. We have direct lines to watch commanders and command staff. Recently when an issue was raised, a meeting attended by over 10 members of the department was held and our concerns were answered. As a member of the media, there is full cooperation and a transparency that is rarely felt.

(Photo by Ross A. Benson)
(Photo by Ross A. Benson)

There is a reason that dozens of Police Chiefs and law enforcement agency upper management all gathered on the steps of the Police/Fire Headquarters building on Tuesday morning. It was to show support for a man that they all respect. A man that has once again brought Burbank to the forefront and without a doubt now leads of the best police departments in Southern California, made up of men and woman who care about this community.

If there are still any officers left who are not on board with this positive change, there are hundreds of other departments out there for them. As I have told athletes on teams for years, ‘We will win with you, or we will win without you’, and right now our police department is on a winning streak.

I may sound like the head of the fan club here, but I have seen the changes over the past several years and the change in attitude on the streets. There has been too much negativity written in the past and it’s time to highlight the positive. I am glad I live in Burbank and I feel nothing but confident in every member of the police department.

While today was a positive moment for everyone who attended as well as our city’s future, this is still a department made up of human beings and they may stumble at times. The difference is that now there will be quick and definitive action taken and allegations will no longer linger. The court cases will come and go and the actions taken in the past will be exposed for what they were.

Today the City of Burbank and its citizens should be proud of the man now officially known as its “permanent” Police Chief. It was a long-time coming but well worth the wait.