BURBANK, Calif.—Five Burbank police officers filed a lawsuit against the department, the city and police officials alleging discrimination and sexual harassment against minority officers.
The lawsuit, filed this week in Los Angeles County Superior Court, seeks damages of up to $25 million, said the plaintiffs’ attorney. It also names seven police officials who allegedly tolerated slurs about race, ethnicity and sexual preference directed at officers and suspects.
The plaintiffs say those who reported the harassment were threatened and demoted. They also allege that police Chief Tim Stehr and other officials conspired to exclude minorities from the best jobs in the department.
Plaintiff’s attorney Solomon Gresen said the Police Department “is run as an insider’s club where if you aren’t white, male and heterosexual you had better keep your mouth shut and play along with the bigots or suffer the consequences.”
The plaintiffs said they were regularly exposed to slurs such as “beaner,” “towel head” and other objectionable language.
A message left with the department was not immediately returned Friday night.
Lt. Omar Rodriguez, a 21-year veteran of the department and one of the plaintiffs, claims he was put on administrative leave and reassigned to patrol after he filed a complaint about harassment and discrimination.
Cindy Guillen-Gomez, also a plaintiff, claims she was threatened with rape and passed over for promotion infavor of men who scored less than she did on the detective examination.
She said she was told that she and other female officers were “worthless,” and the verbal abuse worsened when she became pregnant.
Two other plaintiffs, Elfego Rodriguez and Steve Karagiosian, said a special unit was disbanded to demote them after they complained about racial harassment.