Gay Cop Gets $1.5 Million from LAPD for Discrimination
Sgt. Ronald Crump sued his employer in 2009 after he said he experienced an egregious pattern of harassment and humiliation over a period of six months by his supervisor, Lt. John Romero, and then was transferred when he complained.
According to the suit, Romero made constant references to the fact that Crump is gay, as well as commenting about other gay and lesbian members of the force. Among the comments that Romero is alleged to have made were, “I was a religion major at Liberty University — Jerry Falwell would roll over in his grave if he knew I hired you,” and “Don’t forget I hired you even though you’re gay.”
After he complained, Crump was transferred from the media relations division to a civilian communications division, then to bicycle detail in the city’s “Skid Row” neighborhood. Romero was subsequently promoted to captain.
Crump was willing to settle his suit for $100,000 and a transfer to the Hollywood division, but the department declined, and ended up costing the city 15 times as much.
After a trial in 2011, a jury awarded Crump the $1.5 million. However, the payout was delayed while the city decided whether to appeal. Finally, this month the LA City Council voted to drop any further appeal and give the man his money — though he had to resign from the police force as part of the agreement.
Two council members out of 11 voted against the settlement. “This sends the wrong message to the department and the public,” said Councilman Dennis Zine. “I don’t think this is an appropriate expenditure just for some comments made to him.”
Employees who face a hostile work environment because of discrimination or harassment have options to seek recourse through the civil justice system. “California has its own protections under the Fair Employment and Housing Act,” says Crump’s attorney, Greg Smith, who is currently running for city attorney. “They offer greater protections [than federal law] with respect to injuries and it’s more expansive with respect to damages.”
State law provides employment protections that go beyond the federal EEOC rules, banning discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, among other classifications.
Crump initially tried to resolve his complaint through the police department’s Professional Standards Bureau, but encountered a dead end. He wasn’t alone: A report by the department’s inspector general found “systemic problems” with the internal investigation process that rarely found supervisors at fault in retaliation claims and frequently made bare minimal efforts to follow up on complaints.
Civil courts have been much more responsive. According to the LA Times, the city paid out $18 million between 2005 and 2010 to resolve 45 lawsuits out of the 250 the police officers had brought against the department.
Suing the police department or other government entity can be more challenging than bringing a private employer to court, Smith notes. “Number one, there’s unlimited money that they use to defend cases. Number two, they rarely if ever settle cases,” the attorney says. “Number three would be the LA Police Department in and of itself has internal mechanisms that are supposed to deal with retaliation that are rarely if ever followed. The problem is you have to prove to a jury they’re not being followed.”
Employees who think they are being discriminated can should lodge a complaint with their supervisor, in order to fall under the law that protects them from being retaliated against because of their complaint. Next, they can pursue recourse through their employer’s internal mechanisms if they choose, although as Crump and others have found that may not be the most effective route.
“I always advise against using them because generally what happens is that they use their position of you reporting misconduct to set a record up to make it appear that there was no misconduct, because they’re anticipating possible legal action,” Smith says. “In California, you can go to the Department of Fair Pay and Housing and let the State Department take action against the employer, or you have the option of consulting a private attorney to start the process.”