OPINION: It is time to Abolish the Police Commission

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It’s just my opinion…

Burbank Chamber

Burbank’s City Council needs to stick a fork in the Police Commission.

Now, this is not an anti-police or anti-government rant. It is just time for a solution to what has been an ongoing problem for decades. We have a Police Commission with no direction and no power. They are tasked with making recommendations to the City Council, and when was the last time that actually happened?

Let’s take a look back into history and discover how we got here.

Back in the early 1950’s, Burbank was a thriving town with some unchecked corruption. On April of 1932, Elmer Adams was appointed Chief of Police, and for the next 20 years progressed deeper and deeper into the world of corruption, even being linked to gangster Mickey Cohen.

It all came to a head in 1952 when citizens had enough, and an investigation found allegations of a mob hideout on Orange Grove and suspected gambling halls that were hidden in the Rancho District, resulting in the Mayor of Burbank resigning and Adams then resigning on the eve of a grand-jury investigation in 1952 that connected him to payoffs from racketeers.

Soon after, in 1953, new Police Chief Rex Andrews made administrative changes, and a police commission (also called the Burbank Citizens Crime Prevention Committee) was created to oversee the department.

Over the years, the Police Commission has met, and as more transparency came from the City and Police Department, the commission has had very little to do.

The City Charter, which voters approved in 2006, says that the role of the Police Commission is:

1. To initiate studies and surveys in the general field of police science and law enforcement and report its findings and recommendations to the Council;

2. To conduct hearings, investigations, or both, at the request of the Council for the purpose of ascertaining whether additional legislation is needed for the health, safety, peace, and welfare of the inhabitants of the City and to make findings and recommendations to the Council;

3. To act in an advisory capacity to the Council on policy matters pertaining to the Police Department of the City;

4. To receive complaints, except those relating to traffic engineering, pertaining to the Police Department and law enforcement in general;

5. To examine books, papers, records, and accounts in the Police Department, other than confidential matters under investigation.

The Council or the City Manager may assign other powers and duties to the Commission as they shall deem appropriate.

While well-intentioned, it really does not spell out anything, and especially, it does not grant them any powers that anyone else in the City does not have. The problem has become they have no idea what to do at their monthly meeting.

Having a Police Commission so we can say, “We have a Police Commission,” is not a very good reason for having one.

They are not authorized to make personal decisions or administer or even approach or recommend any discipline. They have no say in picking a Chief. They do about as much good as that guy who stands in front of the stage at concerts with ‘Security’ on his yellow jacket.

At recent meetings this year, it seems by watching the Commission that they actually know very little of the inside workings of the Burbank Police Department and, instead of providing any kind of oversight, use the meetings to find out about programs that they should already know about.

The Charter does not talk about presentations, but the Commission loves presentations.

Back in May, they asked for a presentation about the Mental Health Evaluation Team, which had been in place for a while. In April, they wanted to learn about the Drone Program, which had been in use for some time. In March, they asked for a presentation on the Animal Shelter moving from the Police Department to the Park and Recreation Department.

Why? What are they going to do about it? What oversight is needed by them? It was a complete waste of Staff time.

Let’s jump as recently back as July of 2022, when Commissioners wanted a presentation on the Police Department’s traffic safety efforts, including those implemented following the 8/3/21 fatal traffic accident on Glenoaks and a presentation on the Department’s training, procedures, and processes about school safety.

Just before the presentation was made about school safety, the EXACT SAME presentation was given at a School Board/ City Council joint meeting. But yet, instead of watching that, they made the same Lt. give the same presentation. And as for the action taken on any of these ‘presentations’? NOTHING. Thanks for stopping by.

So let’s examine the cost to the taxpayer of these meetings.

  • To start with need a facility that is open to the public. (Janitor staff) $$$
  • Need City Staff (at least one IT person, PIO) to run the meeting, including someone from the City’s Attorney’s office, to keep them on track and avoid Brown Act problems. $$$
  • Having police or others in the City come and make the presentations. This does not even count the amount of time that person has to prep for the meetings of the resources and personnel that they need to use for the presentation. Anywhere from five to 12 police staff. $$$

And that is just for one meeting. Now let’s multiple that times 12.

All of this so the Commission can look like they are doing something, yet all of this information was already available beforehand.

So what are some solutions?

One is to disband the Police Commission. While we are saying disband the Police Commission, we are not saying to get rid of it completely. What we are saying is to make it like the Rancho Review Board. That is a Board that is created by the Community Development Director when an issue arises in the Rancho District. After the issue has been decided, the Board is dissolved until needed again.

It would also mean no monthly meetings, no time, staff, and resources wasted.

In this case, any time a majority of the Council members had an issue they wanted the Police Commission to look into, they could authorize its existence for the task at hand which would be laid out for them by the Council, after which it would just go back into a holding pattern.

Another would be to go back to quarterly meetings. At least not as much time would be wasted. But let’s stop the uneccessary presentations.

If the Council wants to keep the Police Commission as is, then they should require all the members to go through the Police Department Community Academy and require each member to go on one ride-along each month. Maybe by doing this, the Commission members can actually learn how the department works from the inside and might actually come across areas that should be looked into instead of making the Command Staff explain programs that they should already know about.

Yes, the Police Commission is in the City of Burbank’s Charter, but right now, there is a Charter Review Committee (which only is activated for review every five or ten years) that can make recommendations about how the Police Commission is used.

There is no Police Commission meeting in September, which was scheduled for September 21.

Let’s make that a permanent thing.

UMe Schools

1 COMMENT

  1. Mr. Sherwood,
    It has bothered me for decades that the official police towing contract has gone to one company, Girard & Peterson with a NO BID contract. Being awarded a NO BID contract with a city for many decades is unheard of. It reeks of nepotism, cronyism, payola, and having “the fix” in. It is something straight out of The Sopranos. I have talked to council persons over the years and they say “that’s police business”. I have talked to numerous police chief’s over the years and they say “that’s the way the city wants it” conveniently pointing the finger at each other and,… nothing changes.

    For the record: I have never had any dealings with this tow company, However I have read their reviews on Yelp and the persons posting say they get screwed over by this towing company. Why should Gerard & Peterson care? After all, they have a NO BID contract – no competition.

    I recently appeared at a Police Commission meeting and shared my concerns on this subject. Silence. The Chief was in attendance and did not say a word. Not one member asked to agendize my concern for future discussion. Mr. Sherwood, I too wondered what the Police Commission was there for. Furthermore, I was the only speaker and next to the only other citizen attendee, but my comments were limited to three minutes. It made me wonder if the commissioners were interested in hearing from the public at all.

    I agree with you that the Police Commission should be given some real power to actually do something and effect change. The police union will not allow that to happen, nor will our weak City Council.

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