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Gay LAPD officer wins $1-million judgment in retaliation case

May 19, 2011 |  4:32 pm

A jury on Thursday awarded $1.1 million to a Los Angeles police sergeant and media relations spokesman who said he had been harassed and suffered retaliation after complaining that a supervisor mistreated him because he is gay.

Sgt. Ronald Crump sued the city last year, alleging that his direct supervisor at the Los Angeles Police Department Media Relations Section -- Lt. John Romero -- made derogatory remarks about his homosexuality. Romero, who has since been promoted to captain, allegedly described him as "the new Ruby minus the heels," in reference to the woman he replaced in the unit.

On another occasion, Romero allegedly told him, "I was a religion major at Liberty University. Jerry Falwell would roll over in his grave if he knew I had hired you."

Thursday's decision is the second large judgment against the LAPD in as many months. Last month, a jury awarded $2 million to two Los Angeles police officers in a civil suit against the city and the department, alleging there was a "quota system" for writing traffic tickets on the city's Westside.

John Franklin, a spokesman for Los Angeles City Atty. Carmen Trutanich, said the office is reviewing its legal options.

Gregory Smith, the attorney who was victorious in both cases, said Crump's suit is the latest example of the department's failure to fairly investigate discrimination and retaliation cases.

"We offered to settle this case for $100,000 and a transfer for Sgt. Crump to Hollywood Division. The department rejected that offer," Smith said. "From 2008 through 2009, there were approximately 350 investigations done by the LAPD concerning internal complaints of discrimination and retaliation of officers against officers, only one of which was upheld."

Crump, who worked in the media relations section from December 2008 to July 2009, made several attempts to voice his concerns through official channels -- including meetings with the civilian commander of media relations, Smith said.

Crump also filed a written complaint, which was ultimately determined to be unfounded by the LAPD's Professional Standards Bureau.

In the summer of 2009, he was transferred to the the skid row area. Crump argued to the jury that the transfer from the prestigious media relations section was punitive and that it cost him future opportunities for promotion.

"It was a serious dilemma for me to sue the agency that I admire and respect," Crump told The Times on Thursday. "But my commanding officer made poor decisions that, unchallenged, would have had a serious effect on me and other employees who are retaliated against."

A Times Investigation found that over the last decade, at least 16 other officers have won million-dollar-plus jury verdicts or settlements from the city in lawsuits in which they leveled accusations of sexual harassment, racial discrimination, retaliation and other workplace injustices. Dozens more officers have won five- or six-figure paydays.

In response to a report by the Inspector General's office, the LAPD acknowledged that there were serious shortcomings in the way it investigates officers’ retaliation charges. LAPD officials vowed to make improvements and increase training for supervisors who are often accused of workplace misconduct.

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-- Andrew Blankstein (On Twitter via @anblanx)

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