Second UC Davis Police Officer Files Suit Against University and Police Chief Spicuzza

Last month we reported that Former UC Davis Police Officer Calvin Chang had filed suit against the university claiming breach of the settlement agreement and a variety of harassment and discrimination charges.

We also reported that this would likely be the first in a string of complaints against the departments. The Vanguard has now learned that on February 26, 2009, a second UC Davis Police officer, Officer Chithien Le has filed suited against the UC Davis Police Officer.

Among the complaints include racial and disability discrimination, and breach of contract.

Office Le, 28, was fired by the department in 2008.

He told CBC-13 in Sacramento:

“I don’t want to say it, but it seems like they’re in the good old boy system,” Le said. “I felt I was treated differently because of my ethnicity and my race.”

Le says some officers treated him differently because they thought he was gay. On several occasions, fellow officers would change the background graphic on his computer monitor to “pornography or some sort of gay porn,” Le said.

“It made me feel I was alienated,” he said.

During his four years at the department, Le said he never really felt part of the team, even though he was nominated once for officer of the year.”

According to the complaint, the plaintiff believes he was hired in part because of the negative media attention that the UC Davis Police Department had received as a result of the initiative incident involving Officer Calvin Chang.

“Plaintiff is informed and believes and thereupon alleges that defendants UC Regents and UCD Police, hired plaintiff, in part, because they were pressured to hire an Asian American candidate due to the negative media attention that UC Davis Police Department had received as a result of the Mr. Chang’s lawsuit. Plaintiff is informed and believes and thereupon alleges that at the time that plaintiff was hired, there was no other Asian American employed as a
police officer by defendants UC Regents and UCD Police since Calvin Chang’s employment was terminated by defendants UC Regents and UCD Police.”

Officer Chang would pass probation in 2005 and became a permanent employee of the UC Davis Police Department where he was recognized as an outstanding officer and nominated for officer of the year (along with three other officers).

However from the time of his hire,

“employees began a pattern of abuse at its headquarters in Davis, California that included racially insensitive remarks, stereotypical
comments, ridicule, and/or crude and crass ethnic jokes and racial epithets. Plaintiff was consistently referred to as “the next Calvin Chang” and was ostracized by other officers. Employees logged onto plaintiffs computer and changed the background to pictures depicting homosexual acts and other inappropriate pictures.”

He believes he was improperly denied promotion or given raises due to his race and national origin.

“When plaintiff started speaking up for Calvin Chang and himself, he was subjected to retaliation such as having his shifts changed, having derogatory pictures posted on public boards and other degrading acts.”

Furthermore he alleges that Chief Annette Spicuzza failed to “exercise reasonable care to prevent and promptly correct any harassing or discriminatory behavior involving defendants’ employees.”

Several incidents of harassment were allegedly brought to the upper management level of both UC Davis Police and the University including the human resources department but the situation failed to improve.

In early 2006, Officer Le was injured while on duty.

“On or about March 28, 2006, plaintiff suffered an injury while on duty. As a result of said injury, plaintiff filed a claim for worker’s compensation. Plaintiff was under the care of a physician and was placed on “light duty” consisting of clerical work as opposed to field work.”

Officer Le was placed on a “Performance Improvement Plan” ostensibly to work on police report writing, command presence, and officer safety. “These areas had never been at issue prior to plaintiffs injury.” The only other officer placed on “Performance Improvement Plan” was Officer Chang.

“Plaintiff is informed and believes and thereupon alleges that defendants UC Regents, UCD Police and Spicuzza instructed their employees… to place plaintiff and fellow Asian officer Calvin Chang on Performance Improvement Plan as a pretext in order for defendants to document plaintiffs performance in order to terminate plaintiffs
employment.”

Around June 15, 2007, the plaintiff was involved in an incident involving a suspect who resisted arrest and had to be physically restrained. “Plaintiff was written up by employee Leslie Brown for provoking the suspect and endangering fellow officers. Defendants stripped plaintiff of his badge, gun, and identification card.” On July 5, 2007, he returned to light duty but not reinstated as a police officer. He appealed this decision in August and was reinstated in November 2007 after winning appeal. However, in February 2008 he was informed of their intent to terminate his employment and subsequently filed a complaint wit the Department of Fair Employment and Housing.

Officer Le alleges that after suffering work place injuries, that his employers failed and refused to

“make reasonable accommodations for Plaintiffs known physical disability by, among other things, ignoring Plaintiffs request not to participate in a training session, that required strain on his injured hand. Even after Plaintiff informed defendants, and each of them, of his physician’s written order in which said physician indicated that plaintiff is not to take part in this training, defendants, and each of them, forced plaintiff to take part in the training or else be written up for insubordination and subjected to termination. In fear of being terminated, plaintiff took part is said training occurring in or about March 2007.”

Moreover,

“Plaintiff is informed and believes, and thereon alleges, that on or about March 12, 2008, Plaintiffs employment was caused to be terminated by Defendants, and each of them, at their head office located in Davis, because of, among other things, his disability, in violation of California Government Code §129401(a).”

The complaint alleges that his race was a factor in the defendants’ actions including harassment and termination. The Vanguard has learned during the course of its year-and-a-half investigation into the UC Davis police department that no fewer than SIX UC Davis Police Officer have either left the department, been fired, or have been reassigned for a variety of reasons. All six of these officers are either racial or ethnic minorities and allege disparate treatment, harassment, and discrimination. The Vanguard will continue to follow through on this investigations and hopes to have a full investigative report in the future.

—David M. Greenwald reporting

About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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14 Comments

  1. Mary M Zhu

    Interesting article. The information about the discipline/firing of six ethnic minority officers would mean more if we knew whether six is a large or small percentage of all officers disciplined/fired in the same period of time. We would also need to know what is the percentage of that ethnic group in the UCD police department. In other words, is it 6 minority/4 White or 6 minority/60 White and the percentage of ethnic minority in the UCD police department is 10%. The first scenario suggests discrimination, while the second scenario is just the expected number of disciplined minority policemen.

    So six disciplined/fired ethnic minority policement would be surprising if onif the the ethnic group in question represents six percent of the UCD police department and a 94 white policemen were disciplined/fired in a given time period, then the discipl

  2. David M. Greenwald

    From 2007-08, according to University Records obtained through a public records act request, there were a total of five sustained IAD complaints. Of those, four led to terminations/ resignations and the other letter of reprimand. All four of the terminated or resigned officers were ethnic/ racial minorities.

    Of all the officers terminated and disciplined, they are only officers of color.

  3. Need Context

    “From 2007-08, according to University Records obtained through a public records act request, there were a total of five sustained IAD complaints. Of those, four led to terminations/ resignations and the other letter of reprimand. All four of the terminated or resigned officers were ethnic/ racial minorities.

    Of all the officers terminated and disciplined, they are only officers of color.”

    But what we need to know for context is how many are on the UCD police force, and of those on the UCD police force, how many are of an ethnic minority. For instance, if the UCD police force is made up of 50 officers, of which 30 are an ethnic minority, then the 4 disciplined being an ethnic minority is not all that startling. If there are 10 officers, 4 of which are an ethnic minority, and the 4 disciplined are an ethnic minority, everyone sees the pattern of discrimination It would be almost a no-brainer. Context is very important here…

  4. David M. Greenwald

    That’s a good guess. My understanding is that there are roughly 50 UCD police position, of which 5 to 10 are unfilled at any point in time. There are between 10 and 15 ethnic minorities in the department.

  5. David M. Greenwald

    Okay here is an organizational chart ([url]http://police.ucdavis.edu/pdf/Org_Chart_10.2006.pdf[/url]) from October 2006.

    28 white officers, 3 asian, 6 hispanic, 2 black

    So 11 of 39 are minorities.

    Of those 3 have since been terminated, one has been basically forced to be re-assigned, and two others (both african americans) left before they even made the chart in 2006.

  6. Need Context

    “Of those 3 have since been terminated, one has been basically forced to be re-assigned, and two others (both african americans) left before they even made the chart in 2006.”

    Do you know the ethnic minority of the three who were terminated? Also, is Spicuzza hispanic or white do you think? If all 3 terminated officers were Asian, then it begings to look like a pattern of descrimination. However, it was not clear to me from your article if Le was gay or not. This is an important question, as it also may be there is homophobia in the UCDPD, beyond ethnic descrimination. Again, context is important.

  7. David M. Greenwald

    Good questions. Spicuzza is white.

    Terminated officers were Asian and African American. I do not believe Officer Le is gay, but he was harassed as though he were due to his being linked with Chang–this is all alleged in the complaint.

  8. Concerned about teachers

    Plaintiff is informed and believes and thereupon alleges that defendants UC Regents and UCD Police, hired plaintiff, in part, because they were pressured to hire an Asian American candidate due to the negative media attention that UC Davis Police Department had received

    The Plaintiff alleges this – so does that mean UCD hired the plaintiff knowing he was not fully qualified? If that is true then does the dismisal also have something to do with lack of qualifications? Was he set up to fail from the very beginning?

  9. David M. Greenwald

    I don’t think they are alleging that he’s unqualified, he’s alleging that they hired him somewhat unwillingly and then took it out on him after he was hired.

  10. Mary M Zhu

    Working with the 2006 numbers, 28% of the UCD police force are of color (11/39). Since 2006, 7.6% of the force were fired (3/39). If the firings were evenly distributed across ethnic lines, we would expect 0.84 police of color to have gotten fired. Since we don’t chop up people, make that one person of color fired and two Whites fired. Instead, there were three persons of color fired, whichis more than three times expected. Conclusions are shakey, however, as these are very small numbers and only one snapshot in time. If these odds hold up over time and if the numbers get larger, it may suggest that you shouldn’t join the UCD police force unless you’re White. By the way, if one left before the chart was available, how did that person get counted?

  11. hmmm

    why doesnt anyone stop to consider that those that left, left by choice for other reasons? i.e. family, relocation, new workplace, etc. Also, if working for the police department was so bad, why would he want to go back?

    There are many other things at hand with the second situation for people to start believing one side of the story. Camraderie at any workplace exists and maybe people should also consider the camraderie goes both ways- at any workplace. Consider this- if no one talked to you at work, wouldn’t that seem odd? And if people socialize with you at work, does that not mean you are liked?

  12. David M. Greenwald

    “why doesnt anyone stop to consider that those that left, left by choice for other reasons?”

    Because I have documents that indicate they were dismissed.

    “Also, if working for the police department was so bad, why would he want to go back? “

    There are a number of reasons–most wanted to be an officer all their lives and it is often people’s response to fight for their job when they’ve been wronged.

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