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Ron Kaye: The Burbank P.D. cleanup

April 15, 2012

So many victims, so many lies, so much still hidden, so much of your money wasted, so much you need to know to finally be free of the sins of the past.

If you think you can escape the consequences of allowing your cops and your city officials to conceal the truth from you about all that has happened for so long inside the Burbank Police Department — as if your ignorance is some kind of shield — you are kidding yourselves.

Rampant racism and sexism and nepotism — this has been going on too long.

What has come out in recent weeks in the trials of two lawsuits filed by Burbank Police Det. Steve Karagiosian and former Deputy Chief Bill Taylor is a sordid tale of incompetent leadership, conspiracies and back-stabbing, tolerance for brutality and discrimination.

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It is a story within a story within a story that is so complicated and has so many players, it would take a blue-ribbon commission or an authoritative and comprehensive report to sort out all the details and to determine the levels of responsibility.

What the jurors heard in court convinced them to award $150,000 to Karagiosian and nearly $1.3 million to Taylor. The city's legal bills are almost certain to rise even more when Officer Cindy Guillen's case comes to trial next month, and when Lt. Omar Rodriguez gets his day in federal court.

Attorney Solomon Gresen, who represented Karagiosian, and attorney Gregory Smith, who represented Taylor, provided a tour in lengthy conversations through the labyrinthine saga and how it started to unravel after the Porto's Bakery robbery on Dec. 28, 2007.

Rumors were flying around that gang-member suspects in the case were beaten by officers. Four months after the robbery, an anonymous letter — purportedly from officers afraid of retaliation — was sent to shed light on the allegations.

Testimony in these recent trials cast then-Police Chief Tim Stehr in the middle of all that went wrong, a man way over his head who had promoted his pals over more capable officers and then, as the pressure grew, started looking for someone to blame.

Taylor was accused of obstructing the Porto's investigation. Pressure was put on Rodriguez to turn on Taylor, who had dared to support his efforts to hire more minority officers. That made Rodriguez a marked man, accused of using excessive force on a suspect.

And so it went. Officers chose sides, changed their stories about what had happened. By the spring of 2009, the department was in turmoil.

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