SANTA ANA (CBSLA.com) — Jury selection was set to begin Tuesday in an employment discrimination trial against the Westminster Police Department.
Plaintiffs in Flores v. City of Westminster allege the department has unlawfully discriminated against Latino police officers, who were even denied coveted promotions and special assignments because of their national origin, according to attorneys.
The complaint (PDF) filed in United States District Court for the Central District of California alleges Jose Flores, Ryan Reyes, and Brian Perez experienced severe workplace retaliation from superiors in the form of written reprimands, superfluous internal affairs investigations, negative reviews, and suspensions.
According to the complaint, Perez is an active duty Major in the U.S. Marine Corps who has been promoted six times by the Marines, while Flores is a long-serving police officer who has received the MADD (Mothers Against Drunk Driving) Award and other honors.
Reyes, meanwhile, has been granted more than 10 commendations by the Westminster Police Department, has been twice awarded the Bronze medal of merit for saving someone’s life, and was recognized as Rookie of the Year in his first year with the Department, according to attorneys with civil rights organization MALDEF.
“More than one in five Westminster residents is Latino,” said MALDEF President and General Counsel Thomas A. Saenz. “In order to serve well and ably the full community, the Westminster Police Department must cease its discriminatory practices and provide equal opportunity to all, as the law plainly requires.”
The plaintiffs’ attorney, Victor Viramontes, estimated roughly a dozen officers in the 90-officer department are Latino, the Associated Press reported.
Attorney Melanie Poturica, who represents the city of Westminster, told the Los Angeles Times the city denies any allegations of discrimination and retaliation.
“We feel that we have a very strong case and we are ready to go to trial,” said Poturica.