Court-Ordered Inquiry Into Police to Start : Cartoons, Flyers Cited in Spinoff of Bias Suit

Times Staff Writer

On the order of a federal judge hearing a discrimination lawsuit against the Glendale Police Department, city officials said Wednesday that they will begin an investigation of cartoons and flyers depicting blacks and Hispanics in a derogatory manner that were circulated within the department.

The cartoons and flyers, some produced by police officers, have held center stage for much of the weeklong trial in which a Latino police officer is seeking to prove that he was discriminated against by the department.

"These kind of pictures under any circumstance are not acceptable. Anytime anything that is derogatory like that comes out, it casts a shadow on the whole community," Mayor Larry Zarian said Wednesday. The investigation will be conducted by a panel consisting of the city manager, the city attorney and the police chief, the mayor said.

U. S. District Court Judge Dickran Tevrizian Jr. took the unusual action of ordering the investigation Friday after a black police officer testified that he believed no one in city government would do anything about the flyers.

10 Cartoons, Flyers Submitted

"They're going to stop this nonsense, investigate and get to the bottom of this," Tevrizian told the assistant city attorney, Scott H. Howard, who was defending the city in the trial.

Among 10 cartoons and flyers submitted as evidence is a flyer depicting a running black man with the caption "Official Running Nigger Target." A second one makes reference to hunting season and said it was "open season on South Western Wetbacks (known locally as Mexican, Greaser, Greaseball, Spic, Mex or low rider)."

The flyers and cartoons were introduced as evidence on behalf of Ricardo L. Jauregui, 38, who alleges he was not granted a promotion to sergeant because of racism. He claims that a less-qualified white man was promoted over him in 1985, prompting him to file a lawsuit.

Jauregui is asking that the court grant him the promotion and an undetermined amount of back pay at the sergeant level. He is also seeking an order that the department stop discriminating against minorities and women.

'Bad Judgment'

The officer promoted over Jauregui is Sgt. Randall Tampa, who admitted on the stand that he drew or produced some of the flyers that some officers have said they considered to be racially derogatory. He also told the court that he and other officers placed the flyers in black officers' lockers.

"Maybe I used bad judgment in doing it. I never meant it to be racial. I never meant it to be demeaning to these officers. It happened, it was in jest and I regret it," Tampa said.

He said the black officers often made lewd sexual comments about his former wife, and he retaliated with the drawings as part of a friendly rivalry.

In testimony, Glendale Police Chief David Thompson said he was not aware of the flyers except for one cartoon that was drawn by Tampa in 1983. That cartoon depicted two apes with photos of the two black officers superimposed over the apes' faces.

No action was taken against Tampa, other than a verbal reprimand, the chief said, because Tampa told him it was done as humor and the black officers did not complain at the time, Thompson said.

Judge Tevrizian admonished Thompson, saying the flyers were not funny, but rather were "dehumanizing, demoralizing and insensitive to minorities . . . and undermine the public confidence in the Police Department."

The flyers were collected since 1979 by three black officers who testified that they kept them in case they formally complained about racial harassment.

Thompson also testified that Jauregui was passed over because of his personality, not discrimination. Jauregui tended to be "rude, challenging to authority and was not a team player," the chief said.

Qualifications Compared

"He has a problem with interpersonal relationships," he said. Other testimony centered on the qualifications of Tampa and Jauregui. A 10-year veteran of the force, Tampa has been a recruiter and involved in officer-training programs. He does not have a college degree.

Tampa, who has received several commendations, said he believed he had earned his promotion.

Jauregui, a 13-year veteran of the force, has a college degree, has lectured in law-enforcement classes and was at the top of the promotional list for sergeant five times since 1980. He is a patrolman assigned to special investigative duties.

When asked by Howard whether the department had discriminated against him, Jauregui replied: "I'm not sure." Later, he testified that he believed that his race did play a part in his not getting a promotion.

Both Jauregui and Tampa have been twice suspended for one or two days without pay for misconduct and using excessive force, supervisors testified. Although suspension without pay--one of the harshest forms of discipline--is not common, it is the typical punishment in cases involving such charges.

Jauregui's attorney, David Alkire, rested his case Tuesday.

'Starting to Take Sides'

The trial, which is expected to conclude Friday, has stirred up emotions within the Glendale Police Department, officers say. "They're starting to take sides around here," one sergeant said last Thursday.

On Monday, about 75 police and city employees attended a rally and a press conference to repudiate the charges of discrimination and to show support for the city's defense. The spokesman for the group was Ronald Williams, a black officer who joined the force in 1979.

"We are supportive of the city of Glendale, the chief of police and the police administration's policies on hiring, transfers, and promotions within this organization in that it displays no discrimination overtones," Williams said from a prepared statement on Monday.

The department had never discriminated against him, nor could he remember ever having anything happen to him that he considered racist, he said.

However, when called to testify Tuesday, Williams said that in 1982 he had a confrontation with a white officer who had made a racial remark.

Acting Independently

Those at the rally said they were acting independently of the city and the police association because, as community service officer Debra Lee put it, the press had painted them in a "bad light."

Police and city officials, citing the trial, have refused to release current figures on minority and female employment. According to Alkire, there are five black officers, 15 Hispanics and four women among the 177 sworn officers on the force.

There are no minority or women officers at the rank of sergeant or above, said Sgt. Steve Campbell, police spokesman.

Over the years, the city has had one Hispanic and one woman sergeant, Thompson testified.

Copyright © 2019, Los Angeles Times
EDITION: California | U.S. & World