Got something to say about the Burbank Police Department?
Residents and department employees will have an opportunity to sound off for 10 minutes on the police department on Aug. 4 for that very purpose.
Community feedback is required in the voluntary process police are participating in through the Commission on Accreditation of Law Enforcement Agencies, or CALEA, an independent agency with ties to the U.S. Department of Justice.
Police embarked on the process in fall 2011, reviewing their policies and practices to be able to say they meet professional standards of law enforcement.
A second opportunity for community feedback will be provided on Aug. 5 when residents may call in and speak with CALEA representatives. Phone comments are also limited to 10 minutes.
Police Chief Scott LaChasse said in an email he is delighted the organization has moved closer to CALEA certification.
“It has taken a Herculean effort, the result being the emergence of a contemporary, open, transparent, responsive and vibrant organization,” LaChasse said. “CALEA certification will give us the distinction of being one of a select few law enforcement agencies that have attained this status. Further, the certification will facilitate our objective to remain contemporary and cutting-edge….meaning that Burbank will be a place where others come to harvest best practices.”
CALEA, founded in 1979 through a grant from the department of justice, was created by four executive law enforcement organizations, including the International Association of Police Chiefs, according to the CALEA website. Riots in the 1960s and 1970s led many to question the professionalism, integrity, training and hiring practices of law enforcement, and resulted in the establishment of a body of standards that police departments could voluntarily subject themselves to.
The August meeting is an opportunity for the CALEA assessors to “to meet with members of the public and see what they have to say about the police department,” Lt. Armen Dermenjian said. “It’s not so much to describe [the CALEA] process, it’s more to ask for feedback from the community.”
Dermenjian, an 18-year veteran, has been overseeing the accreditation process.
“We have made certain claims, about safety issues, how we do business, the programs we offer, and [CALEA assessors] want to know if the community feels the same way,” Dermenjian said. “It’s one thing for us to say we do a good job and another to hear it from the community.”
Police departments participating in the self assessment process are allowed three years to do so, and Dermenjian said Burbank has been doing two things: participating in the CALEA process and drafting new policies for the department. Essentially taking on two large projects concurrently, he said.
“I will be relieved when we are done and they say we are going to be accredited,” he said. “I feel we are doing a good job of providing documentation for standards, and learned more about the organization through the process. Sometimes, we work on assumptions. It’s different when you have to show hard copy, documentation.”
The last three years essentially have been an internal audit of policies and practices, Dermenjian said.
CALEA also requires a citizen survey every three years, and police conducted an online survey between April and May. The results of the 19-question survey are posted on the police department’s web site.
A survey about police services had not been conducted in a long time, Dermenjian said, although a city-wide questionnaire of all departments was conducted in 2010. The survey may have only included a couple of questions about police services.
The recent web-based survey was designed by police and advertised via social media, and was open for five weeks, Dermenjian said. Police used SurveyMonkey, a popular and trusted survey site that allows users to easily create surveys.
The survey included the ability to ensure the same person did not complete the survey multiple times, and because police were pressed for time, Dermenjian said they thought an online survey would be the best way to reach out to the community.
“In the future, we may expand or supplement it with hard copies, and distribute it to a larger portion of community,” Dermenjian said.
Dermenjian acknowledged that 370 respondents is less than the roughly 100,000 who live in Burbank, but said police are pretty satisfied with the sample size.
“With a population of 100,000, the margin of error is plus or minus 5%,” he said. “The perception of safety is 84% to 94%, even with the error margin.”
Dermenjian is referring to the first survey question, which asks respondents to rate how safe they feel in the city of Burbank, their neighborhood during the day and other locations around town. About 88% rated the city very safe or safe, and about 89% rated their neighborhood very safe or safe.
To reduce the error margin to 1%, Dermenjian said 9,000 responses would be needed, which could be difficult to get.
The questionnaire also revealed that most respondents rated the quality of police services as excellent (almost 37%), and very good (about 34%). Just under 15% rated police services as good; about 9.5% said fair; and about 4% said police services were poor.
Police also posted the results of internal affairs investigations for 2013. They are categorized as citizen complaints (48) and personnel investigations (19), and the allegations of each complaint or investigation are posted as well as the results.
The public meeting is scheduled for Monday, Aug. 4 at 6 p.m. at Burbank City Hall, in Council Chambers, located at 275 E. Olive Ave.
For those who would like to offer comments by phone, the number to call is (818) 238-3025 on Tuesday, Aug. 5, from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m.