Letter to the Editor: Resident Wonders Why Background Checks not Performed for Police Commission Applicants


Letter to the Editor:

BWP Drought

I try to avoid learning life lessons the hard way, but in the case of auto insurance, I clearly was behind the times.

I was recently involved in a car accident…my first in nearly 20 years and the other driver was found to be at fault.

The accident piqued my curiosity about uninsured and unlicensed drivers, so I checked the Burbank Police Department records and discovered some alarming information. 

The following are the citation statistics for Burbank covering the period of 1/1/2019 – 7/16/2021:

BurCal Apartments8715

§ 16028 No Evidence of Insurance: 3,196
§ 12500 Unlicensed Driver: 496
§ 12951 Not In Possession of License: 250
§ 14601 Suspended License: 165

Graphic supplied by writer

I would presume that for every traffic stop and subsequent citation, the number of actual violations is many times more because only a small fraction of people driving without insurance or a license are pulled over.

My discovery of this information led me to other concerns relating to police protection in our city.

I believe that Burbank needs sharp Police Commissioners who will provide level-headed guidance and recommend policy to stay tough on important issues such as uninsured and unlicensed drivers. The “defund the police” narrative is quite scary to me considering how that has turned out in other cities. Not so good.

Our City cannot be run by people who govern with visceral fear.

The City Council expanded the number of Police Commissioners to seven and on July 13, 2021, the Councilmembers voted to appoint Commissioners from a pool of 27 applicants.

Five of the Police Commission applicants have criminal records and I forwarded those records to the City Council prior to their vote to appoint the new Commissioners. Despite the report, Councilman Jess Talamantes and Councilwoman Sharon Springer voted to appoint one of the individuals who had been charged with alleged domestic violence (PC 415(2)), battery (PC 242) and disturbing the peace (PC 415(2)). Fortunately, the other Council members did not vote for these individuals. I would ask why two Council members would vote to appoint Commissioners with criminal backgrounds. The City confirmed that the criminal records were received before the vote was taken. We all make mistakes in life, however Burbankers deserve the absolute best people on Boards and Commissions. Other applicants had been arrested for alleged lewd conduct, petty theft and solicitation of prostitution. Anyone can go to the courthouse and confirm these facts, however the City Council decided not to ask any person applying for a Board or Commission position about criminal or financial problems in their background. 

When I asked, I was told the City did not conduct background checks on applicants for the Police Commission.

And the Council did not perform due diligence in their screening and interviewing process. Brian Cutler, a lifetime Burbanker, a war veteran and Magnolia Park small business owner applied for the Burbank Police Commission and only two of the five City Council members contacted him for an interview. This raises questions.

I read that the City is actively working to expand residential housing construction projects in Burbank and that the City’s population is expected to grow to as many as 145,000 residents from the current 103,000 living here today. I am not following the logic of this but in any case, we will need a strong, well-funded police department to ensure we are safe.

One of the biggest drivers of property crime in Burbank is the proliferation of meth addicts. In my volunteer work with the homeless, I have discovered that the vast majority of homeless individuals have an addiction component as a causation for their homelessness. 

Christopher Matthew Spencer

BurCal Apartments8715


  1. Thank you for writing this letter!

    As a concern Burbank resident I reached out to the mayor before the March 30th 2021 City Council Meeting regarding the Police Commission. I saw on the agenda the language they changed for the candidates for the Police Commission. I would recommend neighbors look at the agenda’s that are posted for the City Council Meetings that are available via the Burbank City website.

    Part of the letter that I wrote:

    Hello Bob (Mr. Mayor),

    Wanted to share my concern of increasing the number from 5 to 7 and the new wording regarding the Police Commission candidates.

    1. My thoughts would be having 5 instead of 7 would be more efficient (with time, progress and results). I have listen to you, Vice Mayor and 3 council members (voting and discussing options) as well the Police Commission (5 works).

    2. The qualification standards these 2 new ones: (should consider candidates with re-entry services and homelessness advocacy)? I’m not sure if these are the best candidates to be on our Police Commission.


    I am now very concerned knowing that the City did not conduct background checks on applicants for the Police Commission. I really hope we can save the City of Burbank. It is horrible hearing about crime that is happening in our city as well. We have a great Police Department.

    I had planned on retiring in Burbank but not so sure now, the city has changed in the last 30 years.

    Thank you again for posting the letter above.

      • Thank you, Mr. Sherwood, for clearing this up.

        However, I think you should reconsider how often you allow Mr. Spencer to publish comments, or letters on your website. While he appears to be well-meaning in some of his comments or letters, they frequently appear to be personal diatribes and do much to undermine both this valuable website, and our community, as a whole.

        Mr. Spencer appears to be using your website for his own purposes, good or bad, and you are enabling him to achieve this goal. It’s doubtful any local newspaper would publish his letters or comments.

        • Editor’s Note: It is not up to us to say who can and can not write a Letter to the Editor. We believe everyone has a right to give an opinion on local issues. As long as any letter writer stays within the boundaries that we set it is not up to us to mute or sensor anyone. We hope you understand that and we welcome you to write to us anytime you would like your letter posted. Whether we agree with a view or not, we feel the need to let the public decide for themselves.

          • Mr. Sherwood, you’re completely correct. Thank you for reminding me how very precious our right to free speech is.

            I’d like to apologize to Mr. Spencer and to you, Mr. Sherwood. I fear the overall negativity of the last few years has gotten to me and I’ve taken it out on Mr. Spencer.

            I hope others may learn from this blunder.

        • To whom it concerns:

          I accept your apology.

          As an eight-year USN veteran, I fought for everyone’s right to free speech.

          I have notice a growing movement to cancel voices in Burbank. A free country is only possible if every American citizen fights to keep our country free. There are forces as close as our own city working against our freedoms including what we say.

          Everything I post here is very personal to me. Good and bad is subjective, not subject to quantitative examinations. The most precious right in America to me is free speech.

          I welcome any debate as long as it’s not an ad hominem attack which is the tool of the uninformed and lazy debater. I hope you will never be that person.

  2. Well said. Thank you for not censoring. If you disagree with what he says, write a counter argument. Having said that, I find it surprising that the same guy who rails against Police pay, pensions and overtime is suddenly concerned that …”strong, well-funded police department to ensure we are safe.”

    • Robert, you are conflating issues. Go deeper. Speak to more people. Get involved.

      I am both a critic and and an advocate.


      We need fewer “meetings” at every level of the City including the police department.

      I would rather see officers on the street than in meetings.

      I would prefer fewer nanny presentations at Council meetings.

      I would eliminate the Police Commission because there is already an Office of Independent Review AND Internal Affairs. We don’t need a seven-person police commission to add even more meetings.

      I would eliminate all airship operations and use a drone program exclusively to replace the helicopter.

      I would turn the animal shelter over to a nonprofit.

      I would turn the parking enforcement over to a civilian contractor to cut the massive CalPERS obligations. Have a look here: https://burbankca.opengov.com/data/#/1296

      I have other cost-savings ideas that would also reduce or eliminate the overtime.

      The police budget can grow however that means the City should cut tax rates and increase the financial engines that generate those taxes…

      REVPAR and ADR must rise in hotels, that will only happen with long-term strategic planning.

      Occupancy at hotels must rise.

      These will both increase TOT revenue, but the City would rather raise the TOT rates (they are in talks about this now.)

      Sales tax rates must go down so that big corporations won’t game the system (buying out of area to avoid the high local tax rate.)

      To increase tax revenue, Burbank must be a leader in low taxes so that it encourages compliance and improves the business activity.

      Reduce the time to approve permits to a few days rather than weeks so that new stores can plan and build out rapidly and get started. Many stores are empty still (Full ‘o’ Life has been a blight for years now.)

      I have many ideas to (1) increase the police budget (2) decrease police overtime (3) reduce tax rates and (4) increase tax revenues.

      All of this requires long-term planning and business-minded leaders in office.

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