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Arbitrator rules in favor of fired Burbank police officer

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A third former Burbank police officer’s firing was disputed by an independent arbitrator, who ruled that a 20-year department veteran, accused by the city of covering up misconduct during a 2007 robbery investigation, should get his job back.

In an advisory decision, the arbitrator ruled that former Det. Angelo Dahlia, who has sued the city in state and federal court, should not have been fired, multiple sources confirmed. Burbank’s top executive will make the final call on whether to reinstate him.

“(Dahlia) feels that he was completely vindicated by the arbitrator’s decision and is hopeful in getting his job back,” said Dahlia’s attorney Jeffrey Lipow, who is handling the state lawsuit.

City Atty. Amy Albano declined to comment or confirm the identity of the detective, stating only that the fourth arbitration case had concluded.

Dahlia was placed on administrative leave a month after he came forward in April 2009 with information that some officers were involved in excessive force during the investigation into the 2007 Porto’s Bakery takeover robbery, and attempted to cover it up during an initial investigation into the alleged misconduct.

Dahlia reported to investigators with the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department that he saw officers beat, choke and threaten a robbery suspect thought to be involved in the robbery.

The detective was fired roughly a year later after city officials accused him of being involved in the alleged cover-up. Dahlia claimed that fellow officers threatened him to keep quiet.

Dahlia sued the city in federal court in November 2009, while he was still on paid leave, alleging that he was retaliated against for speech that was protected. Dahlia also sued the city for six state causes of action, and the case remains pending.

The probe cost 10 officers, including Dahlia, their jobs. Nine out of 10 officers fired after the probe appealed their terminations.

Of the four cases that have concluded, arbitrators sided with the officer in three of them — Dahlia’s, along with those of former Sgt. Chris Canales and former Det. Mike Reyes. In the fourth case, former Officer Elfego Rodriguez continues to fight his firing in court after an arbitrator sided with the city.

Burbank City Manager Mark Scott declined to reinstate Reyes despite the ruling, angering the Burbank police union president who called the move unfair and bad for employee morale. Scott has not yet made a decision on whether to uphold Canales’ termination.

Claudio Losacco, the president of the Burbank Police Officers’ Assn., said Thursday he hopes Scott reinstates the officers who prevailed in their arbitrations.

“We hope the city manager recognizes that an independent third party has listened to all the facts from both sides and determined that the officer should return to work,” Losacco said. “The (union) membership needs to have faith in the process.”

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Follow Alene Tchekmedyian on Google+ and on Twitter: @atchek.

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