The suicide of a Burbank, Ca., police sergeant last October was the most visible sign of the troubles that have beset the agency, reports the Los Angeles Times. Officers have accused colleagues of taking part in bloody beatings, stealing an internal affairs file, and of acting out of deeply entrenched racial bias. The fact that most of the allegations have come from within the 166-officer force has been a severe blow to the small department. Interim Chief Scott LaChasse has asked psychologists to help him sort through the morass and come up with a corrective plan, and the city has set aside more than $1 million to pay for policing experts to assess the department.
The officer who killed himself was one of several Burbank officers who are subjects of an FBI investigation into allegations of excessive force. Federal prosecutors are looking at several cases involving use of force against suspects and have subpoenaed the department’s files relating to two cases. In both, booking photos show bruised or bloody suspects, but the arrest reports provide explanations for the injuries. Investigators are trying to determine whether improper force was used and whether the arrest reports were falsified, according to the sources. The dead officer was in charge of the Special Enforcement Detail, an elite unit responsible for making high-risk arrests. Among the others targeted in the federal investigation are a sergeant in vice/narcotics who worked closely with the enforcement detail and an officer who worked in the detail years ago but is now in charge of recruiting.