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Anaheim Chief Sued by Latino Activist

September 12, 2002|DAVID HALDANE | TIMES STAFF WRITER

A Latino activist who has sued Anaheim's police chief over an internal background report that he claims defamed him and violated his civil rights, said Wednesday he hopes the action will serve as a wake-up call to police departments everywhere.

"I think this was tremendously dishonorable," said Amin David, chairman of the Latino rights group Los Amigos of Orange County, who filed the lawsuit last week along with two other residents. "We are deeply hurt about it and hope there will be very strong admonitions by city councils to watch police agencies that are doing this."

The lawsuit, naming Police Chief Roger Baker and the city, asks for unspecified damages for Baker's alleged attempt to "discredit and defame" the three residents in a confidential report presented to the City Council during a closed meeting in 2000. The report caused "damage to their personal, political and professional reputations, emotional distress, loss of earning capacity and humiliation," the lawsuit contends.

Joining David in the lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in Santa Ana, are Francisco Ceja and Jessica Castro, acting on behalf of the estate of the late Josie Montoya.

Baker was out of town Wednesday and could not be reached for comment.

Baker has characterized the background check as a "snapshot in time" designed to improve the Police Department's relationship with the Latino community. "There's nothing secret here," he said last year.

The problem began when David and the others filed complaints alleging police misconduct, the lawsuit says. Rather than investigating their complaints, it contends, the department prepared a 36-page report on their backgrounds, including detailed biographical information and intricate family trees showing their links to each other and, allegedly, to individuals with "known criminal records or gang affiliations."

"I'm not a criminal," David said Wednesday. "I'm very offended. I really am."

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