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FBI confirms civil rights probe of Burbank police

September 30, 2009 |  7:13 pm

FBI officials today confirmed that they are investigating possible civil rights violations alleged by officers at the Burbank Police Department.

FBI spokeswoman Laura Eimiller would not comment on specifics of the probe by the agency's civil rights division or how long the probe would last.

At least seven suits have been filed by officers against the Burbank Police Department, alleging a pattern of racial discrimination and retaliation, as well as unlawful demotions or firings.

Mayor Gary Bric said he was confident that investigations of the Burbank Police Department, including an independent probe by the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department, would be thorough and complete. He said there would be no limits to investigators.

"I'm sure people are looking at this and have questions and concerns about what's happening to our Police Department," he said. "But we can assure there's been no impact on public safety."

Bric said the city had begun its own investigation of the department long before the series of lawsuits were filed and that it had brought in the Sheriff's Department to open an independent review of the accusations. That review is completed and expected to be turned over to the Los Angeles County district attorney's office.

The latest suit was filed last month by Bill Taylor, who alleged that his demotion to captain from deputy chief resulted from supporting officers who had filed complaints against the department.

In July, Christopher Lee Dunn, who won the Medal of Valor as a Los Angeles Police Department officer before joining the Burbank force, sued the department, arguing in a 22-page complaint that he was subjected to years of racial taunts and discouraged from joining the department's narcotics unit because he was not white. After success with another unit, the lawsuit alleges he was targeted by management before eventually being run out of the department.

Two months before his suit, five other officers sued, alleging that they tolerated an environment in which officers commonly used slurs about race, ethnicity and sexual preference directed at them, their colleagues, suspects and the public at large.

City Atty. Dennis Barlow said he was unable to comment on the FBI investigation or the series of lawsuits against the city and Police Department, citing pending litigation.

News of the FBI investigation was first reported by the Burbank Leader.

—Andrew Blankstein