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Witness in Bias Lawsuit Sues, Claiming Harassment

March 12, 1987|MARTHA L. WILLMAN | Times Staff Writer

A black police officer who said he testified unwillingly in a recent federal trial about racial discrimination in the Glendale Police Department has filed suit against the city, claiming he is being punished in retaliation.

Officer Ronald Jenkins, who in 1979 became the Police Department's first black officer, was one of several witnesses who provided key testimony during the federal trial last fall that determined the department had discriminated against a Latino minority officer. The suit charges that Jenkins is the target of "a concerted campaign of harassment."

Jenkins' suit was filed in Glendale Superior Court and is the first lawsuit based on the ruling issued in December. In the earlier suit, U.S. District Judge Dickran Tevrizian Jr. ordered the city to promote Latino officer Ricardo L. Jauregui to sergeant and to pay him back wages at that rate from February, 1985, after several officers testified to racial bias within the department. Tevrizian criticized the force for having a "day-to-day climate of racial and ethnic harassment."

Tevrizian also ordered the city to hire an outside expert to investigate cartoons and flyers submitted as evidence in Jauregui's trial that depicted blacks and Latinos in a derogatory manner. Latino activist Herman Sillas, a Los Angeles lawyer, is currently conducting the independent study.

Claims Harassment Intensified

In the latest suit, Jenkins charges that he has been the target of a concerted campaign of harassment since he joined the department and that the harassment intensified after he testified in the Jauregui hearings.

Jenkins' attorney, Michael Worthington of Los Angeles, said the black officer "had experienced disparate treatment on the job for some time but never did anything about it" until Jauregui took action.

"What brought Jenkins out was the subpoena to testify," Worthington said. "It was after he testified that things got more and more harsh on him in relation to his job. He was singled out for disciplinary action in retaliation, to frame him as a bad officer."

The suit claims that Jenkins was isolated in his job, that his every move was closely scrutinized, and that he was wrongly accused of being late to work and disciplined for using foul language while on duty.

The suit also charges that Jenkins has suffered severe emotional distress and anxiety as a result of actions against him and has been denied promotional opportunities. He is seeking at least $15,000 in lost wages, both past and future.

Officials Deny Discrimination

Glendale city officials said they have not been served with the suit and declined comment on it. However, city officials all along have denied that there has been any discrimination within the Police Department. The city's appeal in the Jauregui ruling is pending before the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.

Jenkins was one of three black officers who provided evidence of discrimination within the department during the Jauregui hearings. All three had refused to submit the materials until they were subpoenaed, said David Alkire, Jauregui's attorney.

Alkire said that, in view of the number of incidents of bias within the department that came out during the Jauregui hearings, he "would not be overly astounded" if other minority members of the department filed suit.

Police and city officials, citing the court action, have refused to release current figures on minority and female employment within the department. According to Alkire, there are 5 black officers, 15 Hispanics and 4 women among the 177 sworn officers on the force.

In a deposition taken last fall, Jenkins described an incident in 1980 in which he was invited to a party at a police officer's house and found that his colleagues had burned a cross to welcome him.

"This was supposed to be a jest, but I didn't find it funny," Jenkins said in the deposition. He also said that an anonymous caller warned him in 1985, "If you testify, you die."

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