Ex-Officer’s Suit Alleges Harassment by Colleagues
A Pomona police officer charges in a federal lawsuit that he was harassed and threatened by fellow officers for helping launch an internal investigation that eventually led to the dismissal of three members of the department’s elite major crimes task force.
Jed Arno Blair, 37, said officers shunned him, spat on his locker, tossed his uniform in a urinal and phoned his wife to say his legs would be broken and his family would be killed.
Blair said the department hierarchy did nothing to protect him, and he eventually was forced to move to another state to safeguard himself and his family.
The suit, filed by Blair on Friday in Riverside Federal Court, names the city of Pomona, then-Pomona Police Chief Charles Heilman and several other high-ranking members of the department as defendants. No specific damage figure is sought, but in a claim filed in March--and subsequently rejected by the city--Blair asked for more than $4 million.
Department officials could not immediately be reached for comment.
Blair, who joined the department in 1987, said Officer Mike Oliveri, a member of the task force, approached him in April 1995 and told him about various misdeeds by task force personnel. Oliveri’s accusations included drinking on duty, planting false evidence on suspects, filing false police reports and beating up a handcuffed suspect.
The plaintiff said Oliveri was afraid to tell Heilman what he knew, but Blair eventually persuaded him to discuss the matter with the chief. Heilman immediately suspended the accused officers and launched an internal investigation.
Within a week, Blair said, everyone in the department knew he had talked Oliveri into meeting with the chief.
“Officers began spitting on my locker,” he said. “Then that escalated to wiring the locker shut. . . . They threw my uniform on the floor and stomped on it . . . and stuffed it in a urinal.”
Blair said that when he asked for assistance on duty, while cornering suspects, “no backup units arrived.”
About a year ago, the suit said, someone telephoned Blair’s wife and warned “that they were going to . . . break both his legs and kill” his entire family.
Blair said he repeatedly reported the harassment and threats to his superiors, but “no actions were taken.”
Ironically, although Oliveri was harassed at first, Blair was the principal target, the suit says.
“They may have felt that if I hadn’t come forward . . . he wouldn’t have reported it and nothing would have happened,” Blair said.
In June 1995, an internal investigation upheld a number of the allegations against the accused task force members. Three were fired and five others were temporarily suspended. Because of the misconduct, prosecutors were forced to drop charges in 25 felony cases investigated by the accused officers.
But the harassment continued, Blair said--more insults, more taunts, more ostracism.
“It reached the point of unbearability,” Blair said at a news conference Friday. “It just ruined my life.”