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.