The city of Los Angeles has been told to pay an ex-police officer $1 million as part of a wrongful termination suit, according to information released earlier this month. The man’s supervisors had been accused of retaliation after he reported a fellow officer for failing to pay tolls. That officer allegedly skipped out on tolls on the 91 Freeway for several months.
The man reported the violations in 2009. He had never filed a personal complaint before that time, according to department records. The officer who was accused of defrauding the toll system was not investigated, but the man who reported the misdeeds was targeted with several unnecessary neglect-of-duty complaints. He was accused of failing to quickly send a squad car to a location near Malibu, among other violations, according to information from the department.
After the reporting officer was cleared of the complaints, supervising officers changed documents to drag out the internal investigations, according to court documents.
The client’s lawyer said the verdict was yet another win in a string of victories against people victimized by the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD). He says that a systemic cultural change is the only way the department will be able to halt the stream of suits.
The officer who had failed to pay the tolls resigned in 2011 during an internal affairs investigation. He was accused of covering up parts of his license plate to get out of the payments, and he also allegedly lied to LAPD investigators about the incidents. The man may have been avoiding tolls for as long as a year, according to findings. He had worked in the media relations office before he was moved up to captain of the LAPD’s West Los Angeles Division.
The jury in the case voted unanimously in favor of the plaintiff, reaching a verdict in just four hours. Damages awarded totaled more than $1 million, which included about $112,000 for future economic damages. In addition, $475,000 in past non-economic damages was awarded, along with $434,000 for future non-economic damages.
The LAPD and the city’s attorney chose not to comment on the case, saying that an appeal was pending.
Source: Los Angeles Times, “City must pay cop $1 million in retaliation case,” staff reports, May 15, 2012