City Contends Personality, Not Bias, Cost Officer the Job
The city of Glendale, defending itself in federal court last week in a discrimination lawsuit brought by a Latino police officer, sought to prove that the officer was passed over for promotion because of his personality, not his race.
One after another, a stream of Glendale Police Department officers described Officer Ricardo L. Jauregui, 38, as having several negative personality traits. Jauregui filed suit in 1985 after an Anglo officer, who he alleges was less qualified, was promoted to sergeant over him. The suit asks that he be promoted to sergeant and awarded an undetermined amount of back pay at the sergeant level.
Among those who testified against Jauregui was Sgt. Thomas Tate, who supervised Jauregui in 1981 when he was an officer with the canine unit. “He was pushy,” Tate said. He said that, in his opinion, Jauregui “didn’t have the patience” with police trainees left under his supervision.
Capt. Thomas Rutkowski testified that “Jauregui is abrasive, not a people person . . . pompous.” And another officer, Sgt. Bradley Liston, said that, in his opinion, Jauregui is “mean, arrogant and likes to push people around.”
Evaluations, Testimony Differ
U. S. District Judge Dickran Tevrizian Jr., who is presiding over the trial in downtown Los Angeles, pointed out to most of the high-ranking police officials who testified that none of Jauregui’s written personnel evaluations supported those allegations. Jauregui’s evaluations were submitted as evidence in the trial and most of them characterized him as an “outstanding” or “above-average” officer.
The judge asked Liston how the department could have made a fair choice for promotion when police officials had little or no written documentation of Jauregui’s behavior as they described it on the stand.
Liston replied that there is an “underground feeling about each employee . . . things that will surface through the rumor mill.” Liston added that, in the Police Department, evaluations are used as a “motivational tool” and are mostly positive so that the department can “get officers where we want them to be.”
Some of the supervisors also testified that Jauregui was a good and conscientious police officer. But they added that they felt that he would not make a good supervisor because he did not get along well with people.
Assistant City Atty. Scott Howard, in an attempt to show Jauregui in an unfavorable light, tried to call as witnesses Jauregui’s ex-wife and former sister-in-law. They were expected to testify about family problems, according to Howard. But the judge refused to allow their testimony. “I don’t want you to make this case a soap opera,” Tevrizian later told Howard.
20 Witnesses Called
Howard called about 20 witnesses during the trial’s second week, but the city’s remaining four witnesses and closing arguments will wait until Tuesday, when Tevrizian will return from an East Coast law conference.
Jauregui is also seeking an order that the department stop what he alleges is discrimination against minorities and women.
Jauregui is trying to show that the department fostered bias by allowing racially derogatory flyers and cartoons to be circulated in the department. About 15 such flyers have been entered as evidence.
Sgt. Randall Tampa admitted on the stand earlier in the trial that he drew or produced the flyers “in jest,” and that he and at least two other Glendale police officers distributed them. Tampa is the officer who was promoted to sergeant over Jauregui.
Among those who testified about those cartoons was Jose Feliciano, the city official who helped write Glendale’s 1983 anti-discrimination policy, updating the city’s guidelines to conform with federal regulations. Feliciano, who is Latino, testified that he did not find the flyers offensive.
Jauregui’s attorney, David Alkire, asked Feliciano to look at one of the flyers, which depicted a running black man with the caption “Official Running Nigger Target.”
“Do you find that offensive?” Alkire asked.
“No,” replied Feliciano, a city personnel analyst.
“So the term ‘nigger’ does not offend you?” asked Judge Tevrizian. Feliciano replied, “No, sir.”
Opinions on Flyers
When asked by Tevrizian if he thought the average black person in 1986 would find the word “nigger” offensive, Feliciano replied that he could not speak for the average black person.
When asked by Alkire to look at a flyer that made derogatory references to Latinos, Feliciano said that, even though he is of Hispanic descent, he did not find the flyer offensive.
The flyer 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).”
“Harassment is in the eye of the beholder,” Feliciano said, adding that, in order for the city to take any action against the producers of the flyers, it would have to receive a complaint.
Under more questioning from the judge, Feliciano conceded that, even if there were no complaints, the city would step in to stop circulation of the flyers if it knew they were being posted in public buildings.
Under a federal order issued by Tevrizian early in the trial, city officials are investigating the origins of the cartoons and flyers. Alkire has argued that police officials knew about the flyers but, other than one verbal reprimand of Tampa, did nothing about them.
Feliciano also testified that the city had hired 22 Latino police officers since 1980.
Latino Hirings Questioned
Alkire questioned those figures and asked the analyst how many of those hirings actually made it through the police academy and probation. Feliciano said that only eight of the 22 actually became full-time police officers with the city.
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 police officers, 15 Latinos 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, police officials said.
When the trial resumes next week, Howard is expected to call Chief David Thompson and three other police officials.