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Current and former LA police officers sue department for $100 million

 

WOODLAND HILLS, California (CNN) -- In a $100 million lawsuit, 41 current and former Los Angeles police officers charged Thursday they were unduly punished after reporting police misconduct to their supervisors.

The class-action suit, filed Thursday in Los Angeles Superior Court, alleges the LAPD "enforced a code of silence by harassing and retaliating against those officers who reported misconduct, so that officers knew they had to keep their mouth shut if someone in management (administration) did something wrong."

At a news conference in his Woodland Hills office, plaintiff attorney Bradley Gage accused LAPD supervisors of cultivating an atmosphere in which officers wanting to report wrongdoing feared for their jobs.

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"In the long run if you destroy morale, if you allow those officers who are good officers, that report bad officers to get punished, that's not good," Gage said. "It's a bad thing for the city, it's a bad thing for the department, and eventually it will dwindle the ranks of the LAPD, effecting the safety of all of us."

Gage added, "It's that code of silence that's created out of fear that leads to corruption in the department."

Thursday's lawsuit is aimed primarily at LAPD management, including Chief Bernard Parks, and accuses him, the city, three captains and two lieutenants of harassment, retaliation, discrimination, intentional infliction of emotional distress, nuisance, and unfair business practices -- and also seeks an injunction against the department "to prevent continuing discrimination and retaliation."

Gage told CNN he expects the class action to eventually include "300 to 400 plaintiffs," and said if the case moves forward as expected, "it could take one or two years to resolve."

LAPD spokesman Don Cox said the department would make no immediate comment on the lawsuit. Seven plaintiffs also attended the new conference, all armed with stories of alleged retaliation and harassment.

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Former officer Arif Halaby claimed that after reporting an officer who was "getting a little bit out of control" at a police event, he was continually harassed, and even received a "casual death threat."

Halaby said he came into his office to find a cartoon left on his desk which depicted someone holding a balloon, that said "good luck... and handwritten on it, a tombstone said 'Rest in Peace', R.I.P... and then there were some anonymous letters generated against me where it was like 'hey look, we can do something about this letter, or we can not'."

Halaby retired after nearly 11 years on the force.

Coleen Braun, an 18-year veteran of the force, said she was terminated for reporting a colleague who claimed to be out on sick leave, but was allegedly at a rodeo school.

The department fired her for alleged benefits abuse. Braun said she just wants her job back.

"I love my job," she said.

The lawsuit contends the plaintiffs reported such misconduct as "fraud, perjury, false arrests, false imprisonment" and civil rights violations. But when brought to supervisors' attention, in many cases, according to the lawsuit, plaintiffs were maligned and hassled.

Among the allegations:

 • Supervisors began scrutinizing more carefully the work of officers who were making complaints of misconduct.

 • Filing false charges against the plaintiffs.

 • Attempting to fire and/or demote the officers who reported misconduct.

 • Transferring the plaintiffs to other divisions as a ruse to allow them a 'fresh start,' but before the officer(s) is (are) transferred.

 • Making telephone calls to that new division.

 • Telling the new division "to continue harassing the plaintiffs.

 • Illegally following the officers.

 • Harassing them to force them out of the department.

The plaintiffs allege that statements such as "there is not room for the two of us" and "you better watch your back" were used against them, and that some officers were discriminated against for their weight or other medical disabilities.

The suit goes on to make a connection to the city's ongoing police corruption scandal. "Such policy... was a direct and legal cause of the current Rampart corruption scandal."

The so-called Rampart scandal is named for the LAPD division at the center of a massive probe into accusations of officers planting evidence, framing and even shooting innocent people. Five officers are facing criminal felony charges, including one officer who is charged with attempted murder. At least 70 officers are under investigation and nearly 100 criminal convictions have been overturned.



RELATED STORIES:
Public defender: Up to 30,000 cases need review in light of LAPD scandal
August 10, 2000
Another conviction overturned in LAPD scandal
August 4, 2000
LAPD officers face administrative charges in controversial shooting
July 26, 2000

RELATED SITES:
The Los Angeles Police Department
Los Angeles County District Attorney Homepage
United States Attorney's Office, Central District of California


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