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Five Burbank officers sue department for discriminatory practices

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
Comments () | Archives (22)

As a resident of Burbank, it is sad to hear of these institutional racism allegations. Burbank is a diverse city, and the police force should reflect those who it serves.

I work in Burbank and have personally seen how Burbank police racially profiles people and stops them for no apparent reason other than the fact that they are not white. It's no surprise it's own minority police force has filed the lawsuit against their own racist department!

I work in Burbank and it is of no surprise that Burbank police department is hit with a lawsuit from it's own police officers who themselves are not white. Also having witness Burbank PD racially profile drivers, then pull them over for no reason at all other than that of appearance.

These events are truely sad as well as a very sad reflection on the administration of the city of Burbank. It is interesting to note that while all of this is coming out in public some in the administration are very busy trying to keep the status quo in an ineffective city police comission that did nothing to correct any of this. It makes one wonder if the comission is not stacked with people who support this sort of activity and see their job as protecting institutional racism at any cost.Just how high up in the administration does the racism really goes, people who stand by and allow this to happen either fear for their safety or are a part of the core racist beliefs.

Burbank police are one of the most racist cops around LA. I got harassed by those guys for over 7 years when I was in my teens up to 20 yrs old... I am glad these officers are standing up and are not afraid of those racist pigs...Not all cops are bad, there are tons of good ones but Burbank has probably about 75% who are racist and they belong in the KKK rather the BPD... I hope a deep investigation will start and the racist ones get canned.... they have put false charges on me and one time gave me a beating and told me to leave and if they saw me in Burbank that “I would get locked up and false charges will be placed on me so that I won’t see sunshine for many years”... this happened in the street and not in the police department... I am very happy that these brave cops are speaking out. For the love of God, we have a half black president, it’s time to end racism, especially when it’s the cops.

I am a resident of Burbank and a law enforcement supervisor. I truly hope none of these allegations are true for the sake of all of us who live in the 21st century. If they are, then I fault management for being weak! For the five officers, I hope you put the money back in the community as charity if you are compensated! That will give you a great sense of pride, strength and honor!

I live in the city of Burbank and I had an issue with them a few years ago. I felt very intimidated during the situation and I know for sure police procedure was not followed plus I did notice all the officers were white males. I almost put my house up for sale after my experience with them. If you live in Burbank it kind of feels like you are living in Idaho. If you are not white you better be extra careful. I personally believe the officers bringing the case against the city has merit.

All the officers bringing forward the suit are GREAT & AMAZING police officers!
They have made a huge difference in the Burbank Community. They've placed their lives on the line, day in & day out, its unfair that they are getting discriminated against by their department, fellow officers and administrators.

I am so disappointed with Burbank PD, but yet... not completely surprised this happened. (I'll just leave it at that).

My Heart & Best Wishes are with all of them.

Good Luck,
Lt. Omar Rodriguez
Elfego Rodriguez
Cindy Guillen-Gomez
Steve Karagiosian
Jamal Childs

this brave police officers have taken a stand against a wrongful system that refuses to acknowledge that ALL men are created equal. It is sad to think that in such a modern city like Burbank this kind of racism still exits. Good luck to this five officers and God speed. From a long time resident of Burbank

Finally, the officers themselves are coming forward to expose what has been a long time coming. The Burbank Police are for the most part good, but it has been my experience that there are several known practicing "racists" in the departement. They are protected by the Chief and City Attorney and other personell because of growing up in Burbank.

Good luck trying to break the nepotism!

I have family and friends both in active and inactive service with the Burbank PD. The fact that this is surfacing now is actually laughable....this is not news! I have watched how this organization has repeatedly manipulated the "system" for its own gain for years - both within the ranks and by extension the lay public. Racial profiling, ANY misconduct for that matter by those paid to "protect and serve" puts us all at risk. And this situation is one in a string of events that only strengthens my resolve as to the lengths certain members of this department will stoop to extricate themselves from their own CORRUPT, UNLAWFUL behavior. The men in this case are mere patsies for a much deeper systemic problem. I urge the public to demand transparency on every front. "..Release the hounds folks!...".

The smaller police departments get away with this kind of thing because of the small town politics. Unfortunately, we have all forgotten how bad racism really is. I know that now that these officers have risked thier job...more will come forward. Good luck breaking the "Peoples Republic of Burbank"

Being an early graduate of high school, it's disturbing to see that my generation still has to witness racial discrimination. With globalization, the world is a smaller place, thus requiring unity as a PEOPLE more than ever. Get over yourselves! Burbank and every other department should focus on keeping the peace.

I am a resident of Burbank, and have much respect and appriciation for it's Police department. If it's so discriminatory, how did these gold diggers get hired??????? Suck it up and do your job you bunch of weak slaps, and stop fleecing the City that pays your salary for an easy pay day! These moe's are like a T-Shirt you can read from a mile away. Pathetic! I would be disgusted if I had to work with these token degenerates.

Just want to add "no surprise" to this story. While I'm sure many (most?) Burbank cops are decent folks, there are certainly some racist and sexist creeps on the force. I hope this suit will result in a house cleaning and competent oversight in the future.

I have written to Internal Affairs, the US Attorney's Office and the FBI about my experiences with Burbank PD. And everything I am about to say here is 100% true.

I was sexually taunted by a Burbank Police.Officer in Uniform during a false arrest..

Theywould single me out, and arrest me, fabricate liies and make up false charges against me at tmes and lie in their reports, when all I was doing was walking or sititng on a side walk where I live.

I have been stopped on the streets while walking numerous times because I happen to be a black male.

I believe they were simploy trying to drive me out of Burbank.

When I complained, Burbank Internal Affairs would simply say I was making thiings up. You really couldn't get these guys to investigate themselves. It's a good old boys club.

I eventally moved out never to return.

I had lived in Burbank off and on for nearly 20 years.

I have many good friends in Burbank who have suffered tremendously at the hands of these cops and had their lives ruined. Burbank Superior Court pretty much buys whatever they say or allege, hook line and sinker.

Even black Burbank Fire Dept personnel are stopped while driving all the time by Burbank PD because they happen to be black. Ask other white Fire Dept personnel if you don't believe this.

I hope something is done about it this time. And I hope these officers can expose the real inner workings of the Burbank PD. Hooray to these courageous cops. Let the truth be known.

I've worked in Burbank for 15 years and can attest to its overzealous police and its provincial mindset. I work evenings, so when I leave work in the wee hours of the morning, the streets are filled with Burbank's finest just waiting for you to even so much as sneeze.

The Burbank Fire Department may not be much better. One week after 9/11, I was driving on the 5 North and saw a small fire starting on the side of the freeway near the Olive Avenue exit. I didn't have my cell phone with me, but I was actually able to arrive at the Fire Department headquarters in just a few minutes. I parked illegally in the red zone and ran up the steps to the dispatch window and breathlessly warned them about the roadside fire.

The lady behind the Plexiglass window replied, "Oh, we don't do that here. You have to call 911."

But the fire department is right there behind you.

I walked out.

Burbank believes it's Mayberry. It's Dingleberry.

The attorney Solomon Gresen loses over 50% of his cases that go to trial. His filings are always riddled with mistakes. Nowadays he just goes for quick, cheap settlements because he knows he's no match in the court room. He doesn't even bother to read or prepare documents properly because he just wants to do a quick shake down. These officers won't get much at all. In the meantime they will be further harassed and ridiculed by officers and others. That's what happens when you sue a City.

Being a long time Burbank resident and having spent my young adult life growing up here I can attest to the profiling and general inbalance that the force has. While I think they have a number of good officers, I feel they still profile and target at every chance they get. I myself having been pulled over maybe 5 times for no apparent reason except for driving a rusty late model car. My brother in law was actually pulled over 2 weeks ago heading to my house because of his old 80's vehicle and his shaved head. The first thing they asked him when they pulled him over was, "what gang he was from" and "what kind of last name was that" -only to receive a total 180 when he pulled his military ID and report that he had just gotten back from serving. It is absolutely ridiculous how time Burbank cops have on their hands....

Thank God! finally justice!

I believe every word of it! I am a black woman and I was arrested for selling drugs in Burbank ... the only problem was I did not have any drugs on me. I had my 3 year old daughter with me. I told the officer I don't sell or use drugs. He called me the N-word to my face and told me I was going to jail. The reason why they stopped me was I was riding in a car with a white friend. To add insult to injury they took my 3 year old child and put her in the system. My friend who was white was allowed to go home. The officers were rude and very prejudice.

When I was arrested there were two black officers and about five white officers. The black police officers witnessed the sergeant calling me the N-word several times and did nothing.

I ended up taking a deal and doing 90 days they tried to give me 5 years. I have my child back and have moved out of the valley but I will never forget the racism I was subjected to by the BPD.

I feel sorry for the men and women who are still locked up because of the color of their skin.

I to have been targeted by burbank police department mainly by the white officers I go to school in Burbank and even though i do not look like a thug or of any criminal affiliation i have been stoped and followed for no reason but for the color of my skin.Even though i know they are wrong it makes me feel hatred towards myself and them 2010 and things still havent changed something got to give eitgher they except us for who we are wich is human beings of a diffrent race or we shouldnt acknowelge them as the law we have a bunch of rednecks that really need to lose their job they spend their time harrasing little african american,asian,and latino kids cause they dont want to see minorities in Burbank they should be getting rapist,serial killers,and other criminals off the street not messing with black men trying to b the next president or doctor how in the hell can we call ourselves americans if we are not even given all the same rights as whites they are not better stop this stupid steryotype of african american,latinos,and other minorities things should start changing cause until u respect me as a man and not some black kid they can all go to hell and that badge doesnt mean anything unless u live by it


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