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.
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
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.”
“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