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Explosive allegations against the Burbank Police Department surface in a lawsuit

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Photo: FLLewis/A Writer’s Groove — Burbank police vehicle

Like a ticking time bomb, folks in the know have been waiting for an explosion of bad news and legal trouble to hit the city of Burbank. It happened on Thursday, May 28, but the bomb, in the form of a lawsuit, came from a surprising source — several members of the city’s own police force.

Late Thursday, Burbank’s top city officials were shaken up over the filing of the suit by Lieutenant Omar Rodriguez, along with officers Jamal Childs, Cindy Guillen-Gomez, Steve Karagiosian, and Elfego Rodriguez. On Friday, a slew of e-mails about the suit and its content landed in my in-box. Last night, I got a copy of the lawsuit as well. Also, stories broke in the media, including the Burbank Leader and the Daily News.

The lawsuit allegations are alarming and claim a rampant pattern of discrimination, sexual harassment, and retaliation in the Burbank Police Department. In the 50-plus page complaint there are numerous charges from the plaintiffs of witnessing or being subjected to offensive language based on color, race, gender or sexual orientation; examples, “fags,” “dykes,” “wetbacks,” “taco venders,” “beaners,” “spics,” “towel heads,” “Armos,” “Julios,”  “niggers,” and  “Malcolm X.”

Also, the suit questioned promotional practices on the force citing the example that “…no African-American employee in the entire history of the Burbank PD has ever been promoted above the title of ‘police officer.'” According to the suit, there are currently five black officers out of approximately 165 officers on the Burbank PD.

 

Photo: FLLewis/A Writer’s Groove — Burbank Police Chief Tim Stehr

 As I reported here on this blog, at the May 12 city council meeting I had a brief conversation with Burbank Police Chief Tim Stehr about the problems in his department and the discontent among some officers. Stehr admitted, “… there are some issues…” but insisted “… (we will ) work together to fix them.” Apparently, the chief’s efforts were not enough to stop the filing this lawsuit, which some media reports say could cost the city as much as $25 million dollars.

I’m a long time tax paying Burbank resident. Also, I’m an African American female. The allegations in this lawsuit are shocking and disturbing to me.  My confidence in the Burbank police department has been shattered. City officials need to move swiftly to either prove these allegations false or admit the failings of the police department and immediately come up with a plan to correct the problems with strong decisive actions.

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11 Responses to Explosive allegations against the Burbank Police Department surface in a lawsuit

  1. Jon Saturday, May 30, 2009 at 3:19 pm #

    You know what ? This makes me afraid to drive,walk or even just be in Burbank. I wonder just who can be trusted if anybody can at all.

  2. JJ Saturday, May 30, 2009 at 3:34 pm #

    Just how could this all be going on and no one knows about it in the city ? If this costs 25 mil who has to pay for it ? I hope it’s the mayor.

  3. Fronnie Lewis Saturday, May 30, 2009 at 4:22 pm #

    Jon,

    I agree, these allegations make me concerned about public safety in Burbank as well. Also, you do start to wonder if anything about the city government can be trusted.

    JJ,

    I suspect taxpayer dollars will be used to pay for a settlement, if it comes to that.

  4. JJ Saturday, May 30, 2009 at 5:46 pm #

    I think the mayor should be questioned about what he knows, when he knew it and why he didn’t do something about it. This sounds like it went on for a long time and happened to tons of people. They should all sue the mayor for not doing his job.

  5. Fronnie Lewis Sunday, May 31, 2009 at 12:06 am #

    JJ,

    You’re right, it sounds like these problems in the Burbank police department have been there a while. Top officials, including the police chief, should have dealt with them long ago. Now the clean-up of the police department is probably going to be expensive and damaging to the city.

  6. Carma Thursday, June 4, 2009 at 7:31 pm #

    I know the officers are telling the truth because, I know a Burbank Police Officer not involved in the suit that said more than 12 officers have come forward and not all have filed suits. I suspect that there will be many more to come. People need to demand that Chief Stehr be removed ASAP to ensure he doesn’t influence other officers from coming out.

  7. Fronnie Lewis Thursday, June 4, 2009 at 7:49 pm #

    Carma,

    Thanks for commenting. There is a crisis in the Burbank Police Department and city officials need to take swift action.

  8. Carole Thursday, June 4, 2009 at 9:22 pm #

    Honestly I believe there is a city wide crisis and we are all just starting to see it. We should all be wearing hard hats.

  9. Fronnie Lewis Thursday, June 4, 2009 at 10:41 pm #

    Carole,

    You know, I’ve heard that from other locals as well. That what’s going on in the Burbank Police Department is happening in other city departments and agencies as well.

  10. Fuscardo Friday, June 5, 2009 at 1:32 pm #

    I hear about sexual harassment from lots of people and lots of them say it is all over the place in Burbank government. Really all of this just can’t be as simple as a few cops doing things I think it must be a lot deeper.

  11. Fronnie Lewis Friday, June 5, 2009 at 2:04 pm #

    Fuscardo,

    If that is the case, the investigation needs to expand from the police department to ever agency and department in Burbank city government. Sexual harassment should not be tolerated in any area of Burbank city government. Hey, don’t they know it’s 2009!

Comments are closed.