Three Latino Police Officers Awarded $3.5 Million Over Racial Discrimination
Three police officers were awarded $3.5 million after they were passed over for promotions and called derogatory names because they were Latino.
Westminster Police Officers Ryan Reyes, Jose Flores and Brian Perez claimed that they were continually experienced racial discrimination. They were assigned to "mall duty" rather than jobs that could lead to a promotion, which were given to less-qualified white officers, the L.A. Times says. Flores, in particular, was often called "Dirty Sanchez" by other officers, the O.C. Register reports.
The federal jury deliberated for three days before they reached the verdict in favor of the officers.
"It was a very deserving verdict," Attorney Bernard Alexander, who represents the three officers, told City News Service. "These are good men who were working under adverse conditions who had the courage to come forward. Others who did not have the courage to come forward will benefit."
The officers also claimed that there was a "Whites only" sign on a door that remained in the station for 19 years, the O.C. Weekly says.
When the officers came forward with allegations of discrimination, they were retaliated against by opening internal affairs reports in an effort to tarnish their reputations, the O.C. Weekly says.
The lawsuit was against not only the city, but Westminster Police Chief Kevin Baker and former chiefs Mitchell Waller, Andy Hall and Ron Coopman as well. The city must now pay the officers $436,000, with the police chiefs mandated to pick up the rest of the slack, the O.C. Weekly says.
Meanwhile, the attorney representing the city decried the verdict, saying that the officers were passed over for promotion due to incompetence, rather than race. Attorney Melanie Potorica claimed that Reyes was slow to file paperwork and Flores was reprimanded for not responding to a domestic violence call.
The city also claimed that Latino officers were routinely promoted within the department, but the officers' lawyers countered that they were only promoted after Reyes, Flores and Perez filed the lawsuit.
"In many ways this is a historic victory for officers of color," said Victor Viramontes, another attorney representing the officers, told the Times.