A former officer has filed a $1-million lawsuit charging that the Los Angeles Police Department routinely denies promotions and pay raises to Latino officers.
The discrimination suit filed Wednesday was brought by Ernest F. Valdez, a patrolman in the Northeast and Central divisions from 1980 to 1985. Valdez alleges that promotions are controlled by a small band of Christian fundamentalists who manipulate test scores and only promote officers who share their religious beliefs.
Valdez said he resigned from the department after he became frustrated by "discriminatory policies" that repeatedly denied him a pay raise.
In his lawsuit, Valdez relies on city and federal records to support his contention that Latinos are under-represented on the police force. While 30% of the city's population is Latino, 17% of the police force is Latino, Valdez said.
"We won't reach parity ever, if things continue the way they are," Valdez said.
Cmdr. William Booth, LAPD spokesman, acknowledged that the department's Latino population does not mirror the community, but he "categorically denies" any discrimination against any ethnic group. He said the department is fully complying with federal, state and city ordinances and that the promotion procedure is competitive and untainted.
Valdez claims that Assistant Chief Robert L. Vernon has unduly exerted influence to promote seven fellow "born-again" Christians. He points out that five of these "adjutants" are also former personal aides to the assistant chief or are bishops in the San Fernando Valley fundamentalist church where Vernon is a lay elder.
Vernon has dismissed any allegations of favoritism as "coincidence."
Sgt. Michael Mejia, former president of the Los Angeles Law Enforcement Assn., said that organization has been struggling for years against the "institutional bias" of the department, which he said has kept Latinos out of adjutant positions that ultimately lead to management appointments.