As Burbank city officials announced its intent to hire a permanent police chief, its current leader of 30 months said he is weighing his options on whether to apply.
Scott LaChasse, a 32-year veteran of the Los Angeles Police Department, has held the title of interim police chief since January 2010. His predecessor Tim Stehr, who retired under a cloud of civil rights investigations and lawsuits, lasted from August 2007 to December 2009.
City Manager Mike Flad said enough momentum is in place to move to a permanent chief.
LaChasse was originally hired on a six-month contract, and his command staff were all hired on a temporary basis, Flad said. As captains retire or their contracts are not renewed, they also would be replaced.
“There is no hidden thing that I’m not telling you,” Flad said. “The timing is right, the pieces are in place. It’s time for a transition.”
LaChasse took the reins of a department in turmoil. The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department and FBI had recently begun civil rights investigations, and several lawsuits by former and current officers claimed widespread discrimination and retaliation by Burbank police brass.
“Because of the situation and his skills, he ended up staying 2 1/2 years,” said city spokesman Drew Sugars. “He was making so much progress it made sense to keep him there. It has nothing to do with his skill level or performance — he’s performed admirably for the city.”
The city is “moving forward on something that was going to be done two years ago,” Sugars said.
Flad said that the national search could take four to six months, and that a state background check could take 45 days.
The goal is to get “the right person, not getting a person right away,” Flad said. “The primary focus is getting a quality candidate.”
Flad, in an earlier statement, praised the interim chief for accomplishing “a myriad of goals that include: assembling a top-level command staff, reorganizing the department’s organizational structure, implementing an accountability system, creating external oversight, updating the use-of-force policy, and improving officer training.”
“Chief LaChasse exceeded our expectations, moving the department to a dramatically better position than when he arrived,” Flad said. “His achievements allow us to take the time necessary to hire a qualified permanent replacement.”
Glendale Police Chief Ron DePompa said he was surprised when he heard Burbank was looking for a permanent police chief.
“I expected Scott and his command staff to be in place a bit longer — their work is unfinished,” DePompa said. “They have made great progress to date, but I’m surprised the city is making this decision at this critical juncture.”
DePompa said this was a critical time for the Police Department because although much progress had been made in changing the culture of the Burbank Police Department, cultural change takes time.
“If direction is changed mid-stream, they are liable to lose the progress made to date,” DePompa said. “They’ve done a wonderful job of starting the change process and starting the restoration of public trust. I have great confidence in Scott and that command staff to finish the job there. I’m surprised to see a change short of the finish line.”
DePompa also said that his working relationship with Burbank has flourished under LaChasse’s term, and that LaChasse brought the department up to contemporary standards.
“I think Scott and his command staff not only started the process of getting up to speed … they also raised the bar and expectations for performance and behavior. That was extremely important,” DePompa said.
LaChasse will remain interim chief through the search process.