From the Associated Press:
BURBANK — An FBI probe into allegations of excessive force at the Burbank Police Department reveals an agency beset by problems including accusations of racial discrimination and the suicide of a sergeant, according to a newspaper report Sunday.
The 166-officer force is so divided that newly appointed interim Chief Scott LaChasse has hired psychologists to help him come up with a corrective plan, a newspaper reported. Officers have accused colleagues of taking part in beatings and acting out of deeply entrenched racial bias.
The City Council has set aside more than $1 million to pay for policing experts to assess the department.
Federal prosecutors are scrutinizing several cases involving use of force against suspects, and have subpoenaed the department’s files relating to two cases.
One of those cases involved Neil Thomas Gunn Sr., a 22-year veteran of the force, who turned a 12-gauge shotgun on himself in October in a quiet hillside Burbank neighborhood. He left a note that said, “This is absolutely work related.”
Gunn was a sergeant in charge of the department’s Special Enforcement Detail, an elite unit responsible for making high-risk arrests — and one of several Burbank officers who are subjects of an FBI investigation into allegations of excessive force, the newspaper reported.
Gunn and another sergeant helped conduct searches of locations linked to suspects in a Dec. 28, 2007, restaurant robbery.
At the time, there were anonymous complaints of excessive force, but an internal probe found no substantiation for them. The case was reopened last spring when a detective told authorities that he had watched an officer grab a suspect by the throat and put a gun to his head while the suspect was sitting in a hallway in the police station waiting to be interviewed.
Meanwhile, lawsuits brought by members of the force allege minority officers in the department were taunted by white officers, passed over for promotions, denied backup and, in one case, threatened by a fellow officer at gunpoint.
City attorneys have denied the allegations.
Gunn’s wife, Tina, said her husband felt humiliated and betrayed by having his actions in the field second-guessed. Gunn believed he was being railroaded for having spoken out against the police leadership at police union meetings, his wife said.
He “felt like the fix was in,” she said, “that it didn’t matter what he said.”