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LAPD Cop Awarded $3.1 Million for Retaliation

On September 22, 2008, a jury awarded $3.1 million to a Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) officer who was retaliated against for reporting that his supervising officer used racial epithets and possibly embezzled department funds.

Twenty-five year LAPD veteran Robert Hill, who is white, reported that his Latino supervisor, Sergeant Gilbert Curtis, used racial slurs, and derogatory statements including "wetbacks." and "If God loved them, why did he make them black?" Hill also alleged that Curtis may have embezzled funds from the LAPD Youth Explorer Program.

Supervisors told Hill to drop the complaint, if he wanted to keep his job, according to court filings. When he didn't, he was called a "rat" and moved to an inferior assignment at a less desirable division.

Hill suffered from depression after his supervisors "cooked up this scheme" to punish him for violating the LAPD's "code of silence," attorney Gregory Smith told a Los Angeles County jury. "His career is over, his friends are gone and his reputation is nothing." said Smith.

City Attorney Richard Loomis argued that Hill was transferred from the division he had worked at for 16 years not in retaliation, but to separate two officers who could not get along. "Officer Hill was separated from Sgt. Curtis because there were allegations of serious misconduct," Loomis told jurors during his closing argument, noting that in 2005 Curtis filed a police report because Hill had threatened to kill him.

During the trial, Hill denied threatening Curtis and alleged that Curtis fabricated the charges in retaliation. Hill was ultimately found not guilty at an internal disciplinary hearing.

After deliberating for three hours, the jury returned a verdict in favor of Hill, by an 11-1 vote, according to Smith. Jurors awarded Hill $3 million for pain and suffering and $127,500 in lost earnings.

"What the LAPD did and continues to do is criminal," Hill declared after the verdict. "There's a code of silence… It's not as widespread, but there's an environment that needs to be corrected." Recent history supports Hill's claim.

In October 2007 a jury awarded detective Ya-May Christie over $1 million for a retaliatory three-level demotion after she accused her former boss of promoting other female employees in exchange for sexual favors.

In January 2007, the City paid police commander Jim Tateau $650,000, for denying him a promotion due to repeated clashes with, and calling for the resignation of, former Police Chief Bernard C. Parks.

In 2006, veteran LAPD officer Reggie Dickenson was paid $225,000 when supervisors fabricated complaints against him and reassigned him far from his home, in retaliation for reporting falsified data required by a consent decree for traffic stop reports.

In September 2005, the City paid $155,000 to settle a suit brought by white Sergeant Jonathan Goode, who was retaliated against for voicing that a hangman's noose in a captain's office offended at least one black civilian employee.

Hill chose not to return to the department, fearing further retaliation toward himself and officers who testified in his case. Of course, $3.1 million seems like a good reason to retire.

Source: Los Angeles Times

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