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Five Burbank officers sue department for discriminatory practices

May 29, 2009 |  2:41 pm

Five Burbank police officers have filed a lawsuit against the department and seven current police officials alleging they allowed a pattern of discrimination and sexual harassment and retaliated against those who complained about it.

The 63-page suit was filed Thursday in Los Angeles Superior Court by attorneys for Lt. Omar Rodriguez and former officers Cindy Guillen-Gomez, Steve Karagiosian, Elfego Rodriguez and Jamal Childs. They are seeking damages of up to $10 million.

The suit alleges that department officials tolerated an environment where officers commonly used slurs about race, ethnicity and sexual preference directed at them, their colleagues, suspects and the public at large.

The slurs included the "N" word, the "C" word, "taco vendor" and "towel head." The plaintiffs also allege that officers reported this and other illegal acts to their supervisors, who "threatened, demoted, ordered them to shut up." One female officer was threatened with anal rape, according to the suit.

"The pervasive discriminatory practices of the Burbank Police Department are the product of an insider group working hand in hand with the department's senior management," said Solomon E. Gresen, the attorney for the officers. "The evidence will also show that this 'group' conspired with Burbank Police Chief Tim Stehr to exclude all but white, heterosexual male officers from the department's most attractive employment opportunities and to harass and retaliate against department members who have taken action to oppose this."

In their suit, the plaintiffs noted that in the nearly 100-year history of the Burbank Police Department, no African American had been promoted above the rank of police officer. 

-- Andrew Blankstein