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Dept. strife led Burbank chief to resign

November 10, 2009 12:00:00 AM PST
The Burbank Police chief's retires as his department deals with several investigations and is still reeling from the suicide of a veteran officer.After two and a half years on the top job, Burbank Police Chief Tim Stehr is calling it quits. This happens in the midst of an FBI investigation into police misconduct by a dozen current and former officers, and a growing stack of lawsuits against the city.

Stehr says his decision to step down at the end of the year is in the best interest of the city and the police department.

In a statement submitted to the Burbank Leader, the chief says: "In light of all the incidents that have occurred, and the controversies that are occurring, I may be a hindrance at this time for the department moving forward, and I am doing it for that reason."

Stehr's resignation comes two weeks after Sergeant Neil Gunn committed suicide on a public street. Gunn's family members and fellow officers say police brass and the union failed to support him after he was named in an FBI probe.

Emotions ran high at last week's Burbank City Council meeting, where Councilman David Gordon called out the chief and demanded his resignation. Tuesday, Gordon stands by his remarks.

"People are stressed," said Gordon. "And we had the tragic loss of one of our officers, Sergeant Gunn, and this is not the way it should be. We need to make it right."

Other city officials echo that sentiment.

"He really needed to make way for new leadership in that department," said Councilman David Golonski. "The problems are pretty severe there, and a tremendous amount of discord is very difficult for someone who's the sitting chief to fix those problems."

Seven current and former Burbank officers have filed lawsuits against the city alleging everything from racial discrimination and retaliation to unlawful demotions or firings.

Tuesday the attorney representing those offers says Stehr is doing the right thing, but says his resignation needs to take effect immediately.

"The unanimous message from everybody that I've spoken to within the department is, 'Let's start the healing now, let's fix this problem now, why are we waiting till December, why are we waiting till January?'" said attorney Solomon Gresen.

Stehr's resignation will take place on December 31, 2009.

Eyewitness News tried to contact Stehr Tuesday, but his representative said he is out of town on vacation.

Aside from sending a letter to the local newspaper, Stehr has not spoken directly with any media outlet.


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