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Friday, May 20, 2011

Jury Awards $1.16 Million to LAPD Gay Cop in Job Discrimination Case

Sgt. Crump for LGBT recruitment
By Karen Ocamb -

(Update to reflect $1.16 million) A jury awarded openly gay LAPD Sgt. Ronald Crump $1.16 million Thursday in his civil case against the city of Los Angeles. Crump claimed job discrimination and retaliation by his LAPD management superiors.

In an email after the verdict was read, Crump said that the jurors thanked him for “leading cops.” He wrote:
It was a great dilemma to sue the organization I admire. But my management’s gross decisions adversely effected me and it needed to be challenged – not only for me but all the employees that have been affected similarly. Despite this incident, I still find it a great honor to be LAPD and a contribution to society. I had to trust the justice system and my faith in my actions and failure to waiver in my decisions proved well for equal employment opportunities.
Frontiers In LA and LGBT POV reported on Crump’s story, noting that the case could seriously jeopardize the trust the LGBT community has been slowly developing toward the long antigay LAPD. Crump, who had been rising through the ranks as a high-regarded officer, at one time was the poster boy for the LAPD’s LGBT recruitment efforts. Crump alleged that when he was an LAPD spokesperson with Media Relations, his superior, Lt. John Romero, harassed and humiliated him and when he complained – he was transferred in retaliation to an undesirable position while Romero was promoted.
Ironically, the City Attorney’s office spent several costly days putting on witness after witness to besmirch Crump’s reputation and credibility – at the same time the LAPD Inspector General Nicole Bershon issued a report finding systemic problems with how the LAPD handles claims of retaliation. Read the document: LAPD retaliation report.
On Tuesday, May 17, LAPD senior officials acknowledged the problems to the LA Police Commission, the LA Times reported.
Responding to a critical report by the department’s independent watchdog, senior LAPD officials offered up an unusually candid mea culpa to the police commission, the civilian body that oversees the department.
“We have a lot of work to do in this area,” Cmdr. Rick Webb, who oversees day-to-day operations of the LAPD’s Internal Affairs Group, conceded to the commission.
LAPD policy forbids officers from retaliating against other officers who report misconduct, take advantage of allotted time off or exercise other rights. Cases of retaliation often involve allegations that officers were unfairly passed over for coveted assignments, given poor work evaluations or harassed with crude behavior.
The report from LAPD Inspector General Nicole Bershon found systemic problems with the way internal affairs investigators look into retaliation claims. Often, the report said, investigators determine that the actions of accused officers do not amount to misconduct.
As a result, the accused officers frequently are not interviewed and sometimes are removed from the investigation altogether, which makes it all but impossible for the department to identify a pattern of misbehavior as a problem employee moves from assignment to assignment, Bershon warned.
Sgt. Crump in Media Relations

The LAPD senior officers told the commission that the problem could in part be attributed to internal affairs handling a high volume of cases, as well as supervisors lacking the training to address and mitigate workplace disputes.

From The Times:
Small arguments or miscommunications between officers often are not addressed quickly or effectively, allowing them to “fester and create huge, huge problems,” Webb said.
“The culture change has to be with the commanding officers, to give them the skills to deal with these situations quickly,” Webb said…..
LAPD Chief Charlie Beck acknowledged the need for the department to be better at mitigating problems before they get out of control, saying he is planning to overhaul the way the department handles its “risk management” issues, including lawsuits and other potential liabilities.”
The Times reported that openly gay Police Commissioner Rob Saltzman wasn’t buying it: “This is not a new set of issues,” he said during the meeting. “We have been more patient than we should have been.”

Indeed, “Jack Dunphy” (the pseudonym used by a long-serving LAPD officer) opined in a blog post that part of the problem is with supervisors who are more interested in career advancement than in doing their job professionally and properly:
A mentor of mine, now long retired and living happily far, far away from Los Angeles, once explained for me the difference between police officers who do police work and those who devote themselves to advancing up the chain of command. The “climbers,” he said, are mystified at how police work is actually performed on the streets. They sit in roll call and watch as other officers are handed subpoenas to appear in court day after day after making good arrests.  As their own inferiority becomes more and more apparent, both to themselves and to their coworkers, they become envious and even contemptuous of those whose police skills have outpaced their own. And while their more skilled colleagues are developing expertise at making cases, the climbers busy themselves with studying for promotion so as to advance into positions that allow them to second-guess and belittle those who do the work they themselves were incapable of doing.
Worse, the culture of the department’s command officers is such that timidity and even cowardice is often rewarded. The best boss one can have in the LAPD is one who is content to remain at his current rank. But people looking ahead to their next promotion tend to avoid making decisions that might in any way lead to controversy and impede their acquiring that next bar or star on their collars. This has been shown to be true even in hypothetical exercises during training sessions.
Sgt Ronald Crump at Vice

Dunphy suggests that this could have frightening consequences:
Officers throughout the LAPD are now undergoing training on how to respond to a terrorist attack such as occurred in Mumbai, India, in 2008. Classes are broken up into small groups and then presented a scenario depicting an attack against a target somewhere in Los Angeles. The goal of the training is to ensure that officers at any rank and any assignment are prepared to take immediate action when faced with such an attack, yet some supervisors have said they wouldn’t come anywhere near it if one were to occur. Having such an attitude is pathetic enough, but boldly admitting to it without the expectation of consequences shows how poorly the LAPD sometimes chooses its leaders.
So this has serious public safety implications – as well as discouraging hard working cops like Crump and raising questions in the LGBT community about whether this is really  a new day at the LAPD.
There is a famous 1969 book called “The Peter Principle” that Chief Beck might want to peruse. Its premise is that “in a hierarchy, every employee tends to rise to his level of incompetence.”  And then the incompetent employee is often promoted.  If management doesn’t know how to resolve a simple conflict between employees – what is that person doing in management – especially if it’s impacting the taxpayer and public safety?
And the LA City Attorney might consider what cases he choses to defend, as well. I mean, if President Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder can decide not to defend the Defense of Marriage Act in federal court, surely the City Attorney can stand down on or intervene in employee conflict cases before going to court.

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