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Officer awarded $2.25 million

November 20, 2008|Joanna Lin | Lin is a Times staff writer.

The Los Angeles City Council on Wednesday awarded $2.25 million to a police officer who said she was discriminated against and sexually harassed by her male colleagues and supervisors, and then retaliated against when she complained.

Officer Patricia Fuller said she was repeatedly cautioned that the LAPD's canine bomb unit at Los Angeles International Airport, where she was the only female canine handler for six years, was an "ol' boys club" and not "female friendly," according to court documents filed in 2006. When hired in 1999, she was the squad's second female canine handler in Los Angeles Police Department history.

Fuller alleged in her lawsuit that men in the unit took items from her desk and the women's locker room, used her shower and hygiene products, exposed their genitalia, made offensive and sexually explicit remarks, and excluded her from training exercises and other opportunities.

Some offenses Fuller described in court documents included an office bulletin board on which colleagues posted sexually explicit cartoons and images, racial epithets and derogatory images that her supervisor said "built camaraderie." Male colleagues also barred her from "cigar meetings" they held to discuss training issues and practices, and would then blow cigar smoke in her face.

Additionally, Fuller said a colleague once told her that another officer had rubbed his penis on her phone. Although she did not report the incident, Fuller said that when she made other complaints, she was told she was too "anal" and to "stay out of the guys' business."

Fuller said complaining to colleagues and supervisors only intensified their harassment of her. She was falsely accused of misconduct, denied a promotion and paired with a "substandard" partner, according to court documents.

Fuller's attorney, Matthew McNicholas, said he had no comment on the settlement, which was unanimously approved in closed session.

The settlement is the third multimillion-dollar verdict against the LAPD in the last three months involving retaliation claims.

The retaliation suits were "a very troubling, serious matter," said Councilman Dennis Zine, a former LAPD sergeant and member of the council's Public Safety Committee. "The financial hit on the taxpayers and on the budget is significant."

Last week, a Los Angeles County Superior Court jury awarded $3.6 million to an officer who said he was demoted and suffered retaliation when he defended Fuller. In September, a jury awarded $3.1 million to an officer who said he was penalized for reporting a superior's racial epithets and possible embezzlement.

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joanna.lin@latimes.com

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