BurbankNBeyond Special Report
Editor’s Note: The Burbank Police Officers’ Association (BPOA) has raised some concerns that the organization, which is the union representing Burbank police officers, has regarding the level of service the department is providing due to operational changes made by Interim Chief of Police Scott LaChasse and his command staff. BurbankNBeyond.com was able to obtain the statement made in the recent minutes of a BPOA meeting on September 12. (Click Here to see the entire document). In addition to the BPOA’s concerns, which we have included in its entirety, our staff has attempted to gather background information to present all sides of this issue.
By BurbankNBeyond Staff
The BPOA is worried about the level of service the Burbank Police Department is providing to the residents and business people of Burbank. They believe operational changes put in place by the department’s command staff are responsible for less service and more costs. The department, on the other hand, has noted a number of factors that have an effect on operations.
At the heart of the BPOA’s concern are the changes to the work schedule that was first instituted in the 1990’s. This 3/12 plan has patrol and motorcycle officers working three 12-hour shifts, either days or nights, on consecutive days each week. At the end of each 4-week cycle, the officers would then work one additional shift to bring their hours up to 40 per week, and maintain staffing levels. Currently, that extra shift is being used as a training day, so rather than officers on patrol at straight time, other are brought in on overtime to maintain minimum staffing levels.
“It is costing more money to provide less service to the community,” according to Sgt. Claudio Losacco, Vice President of the BPOA, who believes the shifting of resources from operations to administrative positions is responsible, noting that more sergeants and lieutenants are in administrative positions.
According to Interim Chief Scott LaChasse, the department has promoted seven officers to the rank of sergeant this year. He feels that having supervisory personnel in the field is important.
Response times have risen. The BPOA, in their statement, called the nearly 24 minute average response times for all calls in August, an “All Time High.” The department stated that those response times included all types of call, from illegal parking to more serious crimes. They noted that the response times for “life threatening” calls in August was 3 minutes, 34 seconds, an increase of 43 seconds from the same month last year.
The closing of the Burbank Jail in April for major repairs may be a factor in response times. According to the department, prisoners must now be transported to the Glendale Jail. Two officers must accompany a prisoner for a round trip that can take between 30 and 45 minutes.
Mentally ill people also add to the time officers are not available for patrol. According to the department, they have seen a 25 per cent increase over last year, with 350 calls involving mentally ill people this year. Two officers are needed to transport these people to the closest facility, Olive View in Sylmar. This can take 3 ½ hours. If Olive View is full, the next facility is Harbor General in Los Angeles, which is farther away.
There seems to be a consensus on the need and benefit of training. LaChasse, and the staff he has brought on board, Deputy Chief Tom Angel, and Captains Denis Cremins and Michael Albanese, have put an emphasis on training.
“It makes officers safer when they are properly trained,” said LaChasse.
There seems to be agreement, even by some critics of the department’s operational scheduling, that these men have impeccable credentials. LaChasse was hired in January 2010, for six months to deal with the personnel and legal problems the
department was experiencing. His contract was extended, and he is now serving indefinitely as interim chief.
Although there may be some resentment by some officers towards the “outsiders,” Losacco was quick to point out, that there were no personal issues with the command staff. “They (the command staff) have a different mindset as to what the community expects,” added Losacco.
Referring to the job he was hired to do, LaChasse said, “There were some deep divisions, but there has been a great deal of healing.” He added, “We are public servants, and we all work together.”
The BPOA and the City of Burbank are currently in contract negotiations. The current contract expired in June of 2009. According to Management Services Director Judie Wilke, “It’s been a very difficult process, but we hope to reach a consensus.”
The following is an excerpt from the BPOA Minutes from the September 12. 2011 meeting
1. SERVICE TO THE COMMUNITY
The partnership we have with the residents and merchants of this great city is based on a simple principle; we provide a higher level of service than neighboring agencies and in return, the community has supported us with excellent working conditions.
The Burbank Police Officers’ Association Board of Directors and General Membership are very concerned that, as the result of the interim staff’s changes on the operational side of the Organization, we are not holding up our end of the deal!
For example, response times for July and August 2011 came in at ALL TIME HIGHS. Average response time for August was nearly 24 minutes! This is unacceptable and is the direct result of changes made to what was an efficient schedule and new staffing practices, which had previously set the bar for community responsiveness. Even with lower staffing in the past, we have never seen response times as dismal as these.
There is no avoiding the fact that since the interim staff arrived, the agency is spending significantly more money to provide less service to Burbank. While this may be acceptable in the “right now” world of politicians and interim leaders, it is
totally contrary to the long term commitment we have with the real stakeholders: Those of us on the front lines and the hard working residents of this great City.
It is important to recognize that the interim staff has taken some positive steps towards recovering from the problems facing the Organization when they arrived. However, as they were qualified to deal with the administrative tasks at hand, it has become increasingly obvious that there is little to no understanding among the group of what this community expects and little to no desire to address criticism of their actions.
Members of the BPOA Board of Directors have met with the Interim Command Staff about our concerns, but to no avail. A few months ago, we went as far as to file a grievance related to service, scheduling, staffing and lack of supervision in operational areas of the Organization. Presented with irrefutable facts, the Interim Command Staff acquiesced to flaws in some of their ideas and made minor adjustments. We were assured other areas of the grievance would be addressed in the following months.
Time has passed and promised changes have not taken place. In the spirit of good faith and based on the “open dialog” strategy recommended by the POST Team Building Seminar, the Board of Directors requested a meeting with the Interim Chief so we could frankly discuss unresolved issues directly with him. Unfortunately, the Interim Chief placed unrealistic guidelines on what we hoped would be an informal and progressive meeting. We can only surmise that coming from LAPD, an organization with a history of adversarial relations between management and labor, the Interim Chief is a bit reluctant about a face-to-face meeting to discuss real issues.
Without direct access to the Interim Chief, BPOA President Mark Armendariz, Past President Mike Parrinello and Vice President Claudio Losacco met with City Manager Mike Flad on September 6, 2011. Many issues facing the City, the Police Department and the BPOA were discussed. Mr. Flad was made fully aware of the operational deficiencies that currently exist within the Department.
Mr. Flad was understanding and appeared to take our comments and concerns very seriously. Mr. Flad said complaints about service and response times have generally not reached his office. He did ask the BPOA Board to reach out to the Interim Chief a second time and request a meeting with him so we could share our concerns with him directly. The next day, the Board sent the Interim Chief an email requesting the meeting. Unfortunately, and much to our surprise, the BPOA did not receive a response. Mr. Flad was advised of the Interim Chief’s lack of acknowledgement as it relates to this second request and only then did he have a secretary make contact with the Board to schedule a meeting. This meeting has yet to take place, but we look forward to the conversation.
The BPOA Board of Directors wants our members and our community to remember that we are there for you. The BPOA and the community share a common bond of mutual respect and trust. This bond is a big reason most of our members chose to work here and why people choose to live here. We will diligently, and without compromise, continue to communicate our concerns from a position of integrity to those in a position to impact change. We will not stand-by while changes are made that tarnish a reputation of responsiveness that you, and those who came before you, have literally put blood, sweat and tears into creating.
Until now, the Interim Chief has been the only one speaking publically about Department issues. For the most part, the BPOA has avoided public statements, opting for quiet and practical resolutions. It is our opinion that it is time to change course. It is time to involve our most valuable asset, the community. The folks who live and work here are incredibly smart and loyal. They have always done the right thing by us and we have every reason to believe they will continue to do so, once they have heard all sides of the issues.
While the interim staff is talking about new response time technology and workload studies, the BPOA will be acting on behalf of the membership and community to promote joining the best parts of our past with the promises of the future. Our focus is to move the Organization forward, towards increasing the level of service.
We are asking our members to please continue to do your very best to provide that legendary service to the community to the best of your ability. Work as a team and support each other, striving to be the best we can at what we do! It is the Board’s vision that we will rise up, out of the continued politicking and rhetoric and once again get moving forward by providing police services in a manner consistent with what the public expects and deserves.