Gay Police Sergeant Awarded $1.16M In Defamation Suit Against City
LOS ANGELES (CBS) — A Los Angeles police sergeant who claimed he was the victim of retaliation for being gay was awarded $1.16 million by a jury Thursday.
A Los Angeles Superior Court jury deliberated for part of Wednesday afternoon and most of Thursday before finding in favor of Sgt. Ronald Crump.
“This was not a case about Ronald Crump being gay, but about the department’s retaliation against him,” attorney Gregory Smith said on behalf of Crump.
Smith said his client’s involuntary transfer from the Los Angeles Police Department’s Media Relations Section in 2009 after complaining about his treatment from his boss at the time, Lt. John Romero, left the sergeant without a chance for significant promotions and pay increases.
“He’s not going anywhere in this department,” Smith said during closing arguments Wednesday. “He is finished forever. They have completely destroyed his career for any advancement or promotion.”
Deputy City Attorney Daniel Aguilera declined to comment on the verdict. However, his colleague, Deputy City Attorney Shaun Dabby Jacobs, told jurors that Crump did not lose rank or pay with his changes of position and earns about $110,000 annually. She also said that months passed after he began the media relations assignment before he complained about alleged mistreatment.
Crump’s sexual orientation had nothing to do with his transfer, Jacobs said.
Crump, a 39-year-old, 16-year veteran, said he was pleased with the award, but found it difficult to “sue the city I love.”
Crump said he is still proud to be a member of the LAPD. He said he took legal action to help other employees who also may be mistreated by members of a command staff he believes in many ways is insensitive to the needs of the rank and file.
Crump said he never went out of his way to make his sexual orientation front and center in the workplace.
“I didn’t walk around with a gay flag,” Crump said.
Mary Grady, the LAPD’s public information director, testified she moved Crump because he did not get along with Romero, who is now a captain and is no longer in media relations.
Crump’s initial assignment after the transfer was to the Communications Division, where a primarily civilian staff handles 911 and other police-related calls.
According to Smith, the lawsuit could have been avoided if Crump, after learning he was being moved from media relations, was granted his request to be transferred to the Hollywood Division to work as a patrol sergeant.
Crump said he believes he was not given the Hollywood Division post because the captain there at the time did not approve it. He and Smith also said they offered to settle the lawsuit for $100,000 and a move to Hollywood, but the city countered with an offer to pay that amount if he agreed to go to the San Fernando Valley.
Crump said he did not want to go to the valley because Romero works at one of the stations there and the potential for career advancement is not as good as in divisions closer to downtown.
Smith and Crump said they are still unsure who within the LAPD administration steered the effort to transfer the sergeant from media relations.
Crump testified he has held various positions since leaving media relations, but none of them offered the promotional chances that he had in his old job. He said he is currently an assistant in charge of a task force that operates in Skid Row.
(©2011 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Wire services contributed to this report.)