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Sixth Burbank officer sues department over discrimination

July 16, 2009 |  5:46 pm

A decorated Asian American police detective filed a civil lawsuit today against the Burbank Police Department, alleging that he was the victim of discrimination and retaliation before being unlawfully fired.

Christopher Lee Dunn, who won the Medal of Valor as a Los Angeles Police Department officer before joining the Burbank force, argued in a 22-page complaint that he was subjected to years of racial taunts and discouraged from joining the department's narcotics unit because he was not white. After success with another unit, the lawsuit alleges he was targeted by management before eventually being run out of the department.

In May, five Burbank police officers sued the department and seven current police officials, alleging that they tolerated an environment in which officers commonly used slurs about race, ethnicity and sexual preference directed at them, their colleagues, suspects and the public at large.

Dunn's suit, filed separately, seeks civil penalties and compensatory damages. The Burbank city attorney's office did not immediately return a call for comment.

In addition to the Medal of Valor and the 1999 Top Cop Award, which was presented to him by then-President Bill Clinton, Dunn was the recipient of the 2007 Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force Award and the Professional Esteem Award from the Burbank City Council.

According to the suit, Dunn's troubles began over his efforts to join an elite narcotics unit. Dunn alleges that he initially was discouraged by members of the “all-white” unit who said they did not want work with non-whites. When he ultimately was promoted, he alleges that he was subjected to racist jokes and comments.

Dunn's suit alleges that he was given less desirable assignments in the unit despite having more narcotics seizures than any other Burbank officer. When one of the offending colleagues was transferred, Dunn claims the harassment got worse.

A 2007 complaint against Dunn alleged that he had “tipped off” an informant about a Culver City Police Department investigation. The informant was arrested in possession of enough narcotics to support felony trafficking charges and ultimately recanted her allegations against Dunn.

Dunn was first transferred to another unit and later placed on paid administrative leave. Despite an unsubstantiated complaint that did not result in criminal charges, Dunn alleges that he was terminated on charges that he interfered with the investigation and for insubordination.

—Andrew Blankstein