This just came in as a comment to another article, but it deserves to be highlighted in one of its own.
The “Portos Mess” obviously isn’t over just because the Justice Department threw up its hands in disgust.
Two years ago, I retired from the Burbank Police Department as a Lieutenant with 21 years of distinguished service. I had the opportunity to work with countless community members and several employees at the department/city who are members of the minority groups that Tom Angel degraded and Chief LaChasse tacitly condoned. I am deeply saddened and regret that your leadership has this view and perpetuates it.
Some historical perspective is in order here. LaChasse was brought in (initially on an interim basis) on the heels of a scandal. His mission was to right the ship, dole out discipline, improve morale, abolish the “good ol’ boy system” of discipline and promotion and address allegations of racism, discrimination and harassment within the department. He was apparently chosen based on his years of working at LAPD and the experience he gained navigating similar problems within that organization. He assembled his “team” of reformers which included Tom Angel (from LASD) to be his Deputy Chief.
LaChasse was tasked with leading the department though a difficult period, but as one looks at his objectives point by point, it is clear that he has consistently failed. Members from within the department have complained of his ineptness, lying, and hypocrisy for years, but the council and public would not hear it. They had bought into LaChasse and his team of “Reformers” but as the curtain is pulled back, the Reformers are slowly, but consistently, being exposed as Charlatans.
Since his arrival, he has spent hundreds of thousands of Burbank Tax Payer dollars (with the approval of the City Council) to meet his stated objectives. One of his first commissions was hiring noted police psychologist Larry Blum to survey, evaluate and report on the morale within the ranks. This report was scathing; noting among other things low morale and unfairness in discipline and promotion.
Soon after taking the helm, LaChasse fired 10 employees. To date four of the ten employees he fired have had their cases overturned resulting in settlements from the city and reinstatement as police officers (including SIGNIFICANT back pay awards). One of the cases (Bill Taylor) resulted in a jury award of over one million dollars to Taylor for wrongful termination. The decision to terminate was made by LaChasse.
Morale in the department is currently described by many, if not most, as being at all-time lows. This is evidenced by employees fleeing the department; low officer initiated contacts, low observed arrest rates, increasing crime, inability to recruit, staffing shortages and forced hiring. It is also greatly impacted by LaChasse’s self-serving decisions; such as the one to attend the Baker to Vegas race after the Burbank team had to withdraw (the first time in 25 years) due to staffing shortages.
Much of the funds LaChasse has spent were on oversight contracts such as the costly Office of Independent Review, a team of lawyers who were supposed to also be providing oversight to the LASD during which time their own jail scandal flourished and OIR did nothing to prevent it. They were subsequently fired from LASD, yet LaChasse still has a lucrative contract with them.
Now evidence is surfacing that supports what department employees realized years ago; Chief LaChasse is out of touch, routinely misleads the City Council, the Police Commission, and the press, is a hypocrite, wastes taxpayer funds and is a failed leader.
For perspective, emails very similar to the ones sent by Tom Angel were discovered during the DOJ probe of the Ferguson, Mo Police Department. In that case a police sergeant resigned and a city clerk was fired for the emails. In San Francisco, an investigation is underway where 4 low level officers were texting racist and discriminatory texts. To date, three of those officers have resigned and a fourth is facing discipline. Lets not forget that Lachasse’s mantra during his first few years at the department was “The DOJ is whatching us.” Lachasse even flew to Washington DC with then CM Mike Flad to discuss the DOJ’s interest in the BPD! How does LaChasse, the Reformer hired to deal with racial discord, deal with the exact same situation created by his handpicked second-in-command? He talked to him about it. His response was nothing short of the good ol’ boy manner of discipline. How should it have been handled or how would it have been handled if the revelation did not include his loyal companion?
There would be an investigation that would review the extent of the emails. The employee would have to answer who he got the emails from and who he sent them to. The employee would be asked why he sent the emails and why he did not put an end to them. Ultimately, the employee would have been found to have violated the City’s Harassment and Discrimination Policy, Computer policy, and the policy about maintaining proper working relationships. The employee would have received some meaningful discipline (probably a suspension without pay) and a record would be kept in his personnel file. This record would be one of the things disclosed when/if the employee sought employment at another police agency (as did Tom Angel, when he went back to LASD).
The behavior is absolutely unacceptable, but the response from LaChasse is yet another example of his failed leadership. Tom Angel was not the focus of an investigation and received no discipline for his involvement in this abhorrent behavior that, aside from exposing his true feelings toward minorities, further tarnished the Burbank Police Department and the Law Enforcement Profession. LaChasse responded that he cannot comment because it is a “personnel matter”, but a review of Tom Angel’s Salary (posted on Burbank’s website) shows that he had no negative financial impact. Rather than address the issue and send a clear message that the behavior was unacceptable, Lachasse tacitly approved it by giving no negative consequences.
It is apparent that LaChasse and Sheriff McDonnell did not learn Leadership during their decades of working at scandal ridden LAPD, but rather became experts in weathering the storm and manipulating the public, press and elected officials. McDonnell’s response that it served as a, “teaching moment” and defending Angel as, “professional and respectful of everyone he works with and deals with” does nothing to address his underlying racial bias that is devastating to an agency he is responsible for leading, not to mention the community he is policing.
As far as Burbank is concerned, it is now up to the public, City Council and City Manager to tacitly approve LaChasse’s failed leadership or take a stand against racism, discrimination and harassment. It is time to look at his legacy as a whole, rather than the individual failures. It is time that the Council, the City Manager, and the Police Commission stop believing everything LaChasse says and start holding him accountable. It is time to determine if LaChasse really is branding the department in a manner consistent with the objectives / responsibilities of the City Manager and Elected Officials.
It is time that the City Council responsibly spends some money to find out what is really happening inside the walls of the department. This should include an audit of Lachasse’s spending, discipline decisions, a critical review of his past leadership including; allocation of resources, recruitment, retention, impact on crime (good or bad), self-initiated activity, and a new study to determine morale within the ranks as well as his ability to lead for the future.
Interesting points about the City of Burbank’s computer-use policy. Was it not enforced in this case?
Everyone knows that you don’t use work email for such joking around. Why was it being used in these cases for (supposedly) non-Burbank recipients? It was never used in such a way for fellow Burbank employees?
Does anyone really believe that these jokes only went to outsiders?
You can see why Albano and her legal staff don’t want to release the names of the city’s recipients of this nonsense, or any of the other what have to be numerous emails on the same subject(s). That knowledge — and the inevitable jokey responses back to Angel — would rip both the BPD and City Hall apart. Jokester Angel didn’t just “forward” four or five of these jokes, and he didn’t just send them to non-employees.
Only an idiot apologist would try to deny this.
So why is the Burbank City Council tolerating this obvious cover-up? And what are they going to do about LaChasse’s longtime unwillingness to face up to the facts here?