Monday, July 20, 2009
Ex-Burbank Detective Sues Over Bias, Rights Violations
By a MetNews Staff Writer
A former Burbank detective sued the city Friday, claiming he was discriminated against on the basis of race and gender and denied his procedural rights before being fired.
In his complaint filed in the Los Angeles Superior Court, Central District, Christopher Lee Dunn claims that his termination, ostensibly for interfering with an internal investigation and insubordination, was a pretext for discrimination based on race and gender.
He alleges that despite exemplary service, he ran into antagonism when he tried to integrate into an elite narcotics unit whose members allegedly did not want to work with a non-Caucasian. He also claims he was subjected to years of racial abuse and that fellow officers used numerous derogatory terms to describe officers and suspects belonging to various minority groups.
Dunn said in his complaint that he was promoted to detective in 2006 but was told that white officers in the narcotics unit did not want to work with him, and that even sympathetic officers would not support him because of the politics involved. He persevered, and went on to win a 2007 Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force Award presented by the U.S. attorney general, but continued to be treated intolerantly by other officers, particularly after a sergeant whom he complained about was transferred to patrol duties, he alleges.
Dunn was subsequently the subject of a 14-month, multi-agency investigation into charges that he tipped off a suspect in an investigation by another agency. The probe into his conduct, which did not result in criminal charges being filed, was “incomplete, irregular, and not within the normal practices of the Burbank PD” and was unduly influenced by a lieutenant who was a friend and business partner of the transferred sergeant, Dunn alleges.
The suit comes six weeks after five Burbank officers sued the city, claiming—among other things—that minority and female officers are routinely subjected to harassment, bias and retaliation. City Attorney Dennis Barlow told reporters at the time that the city took the allegations seriously and intended to investigate.
The plaintiffs in that action are represented by attorney Solomon Gresen of Encino’s Rheuban & Gresen, who also represents Dunn. “The evidence we have gathered during our investigation shows that the Burbank Police Department has a long history of tolerating, as a matter of departmental practice, the use of unbelievably offensive racial and ethnic slurs,” Gresen said in a statement.
Dunn is a former Los Angeles Police Department officer with 20 years in law enforcement. In 1998, he received the LAPD Medal of Valor and the next year received a “Top Cop” award presented by President Bill Clinton.
His complaint pleads causes of action for racial discrimination; race-based harassment; retaliation; failure to prevent discrimination, harassment and retaliation, all in violation of the Fair Employment and Housing Act; and for violation of the Public Safety Officers Procedural Rights Act.
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