Photo: FLLewis/A Writer’s Groove — Burbank Police Vehicle
The legal problems for the city of Burbank and its embattled police department got a whole lot worse this past week. On Tuesday, well-respected Ex-Deputy Police Chief Bill Taylor filed a lawsuit against the city, alleging that he was demoted to captain for drawing attention to several serious incidents in the department, including discrimination against a group of minority officers. Taylor joins four Burbank police officers, a lieutenant, and a former detective, in suing the city for alleged misconduct and unfair treatment in the BPD.
The filing of the Taylor lawsuit comes as no surprise. Rumors about it have been making the rounds in the city for weeks now. Nevertheless, the filing of the suit in Los Angeles Superior Court amounts to a legal bomb blowing up in Burbank. I have a copy of the lawsuit, so here are the major incidents cited by Taylor, which he says cost him his position as Deputy Police Chief.
“During March 2009, a sworn employee of the Burbank Police Department was accused of sexually harassing numerous females at the Burbank Animal Shelter. The employee was accused of inappropriate sexual comments and gestures. When Claimant (Taylor) was notified of the allegations of sexual harassment, he recommended to Chief of Police Tim Stehr that the employee be placed on administrative leave pending an investigation. Chief of Police Stehr became agitated and demanded that the employee not be placed on administrative leave for a long period of time and ultimately directed Claimant (Taylor) to bring the employee back to work prematurely before sufficient investigation had been undertaken. Claimant (Taylor) informed the City Manager (Mike Flad) about this incident and that it was handled inappropriately on or about April or May 2009.”
The suit alleges, “… Chief Stehr’s motivation to retaliate against Plaintiff (Taylor) arises from his own personal experiences being subjected to discipline for having sexual intercourse in a police vehicle while on duty. Consequently, Stehr minimized complaints of sexual misconduct and frowned upon Plaintiff (Taylor) for reporting it and taking the issue seriously.”
“Claimant (Taylor) repeatedly complained from April 2008 through April 2009, to Stehr that minority (African-American and Hispanic) probationary police officers were being singled out by the Patrol Captain (Pat Lynch) at the time, and some of his staff, for termination on account of their race. Claimant (Taylor) was able to stop the terminations by refusing to support the record that had been unjustly prepared to support the potential terminations.”
“On or about April or May 2009, Claimant (Taylor) informed the City Manager (Flad) that some department personnel were attempting to unfairly terminate probationary minority officers.”
“In or about January 2007, an IA investigation had been initiated based upon an allegation that a lieutenant, while he held the rank of sergeant, had used excessive force against a suspect. The investigation was conducted, interviews were taken, and evidence was gathered. In or around 2007 all of the documents, flash drive and interview tapes pertaining to the case that were stored in a locked office in the Burbank Police Department were stolen. The theft could have only been committed by an employee of the Burbank Police Department. In a memo to Stehr dated November 19, 2007, Claimant (Taylor) requested that an outside agency be contacted and brought into the Burbank Police Department to investigate what appeared to be a burglary within the Department by Department employees. In the memo, Claimant (Taylor) specifically requested that the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department and the Burbank City Attorney’s office become involved. Claimant’s (Taylor’s) request to bring in the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department was angrily denied. On or about April or May 2009, Claimant (Taylor) informed the City Manager (Flad) about the 2007 burglary and the Chief’s failure to take appropriate action.”
These allegations are explosive because they show a direct link to one of the most powerful officials in Burbank city government, City Manager Mike Flad. If indeed Flad had knowledge of these incidents and his actions were as described in the lawsuit, well, the city manager should find himself on the hot seat answering some pretty tough questions. Also, if Flad knew about these incidents in the Burbank Police Department, were other city hall officials aware of them as well?
Also in my opinion, if Taylor’s allegations are true, his reactions to these incidents should have earned him a promotion and not demotion.
Frequently, Taylor has been described as the moral compass of the Burbank P.D. Stripping Taylor of his Deputy Police Chief position and knocking him down to captain sends a disturbing message. It says the Burbank Police Department is adrift in troubled waters without sufficient direction and guidance. A situation that could prove to be very costly for the city and its citizens.
Meanwhile late yesterday, a statement slamming the lawsuit and Captain Taylor was posted on the Burbank city website: “…The City intends to vigorously defend this case and seek all available and appropriate sanctions, including court costs and attorney’s fees, against Mr. Taylor for filing this false and frivolous lawsuit and defaming the reputations of the City and Police Department.”