Lawsuit alleges discrimination against white officers by L.A. Airport Police

One current and two former Los Angeles Airport Police officers have filed a lawsuit accusing department officials of discriminating against white officers and giving black officers preferential treatment in promotions and disciplinary action.

The suit, filed last week in Los Angeles County Superior Court, alleges that black officers were promoted over whites despite receiving lower scores on promotional exams and that white officers were disciplined more harshly for misconduct compared with black officers facing similar accusations.

Even serious misconduct by black officers, such as repeated domestic violence arrests, criminal investigations for burglary or smuggling steroids resulted in little or no discipline, the suit alleged.

An airport police spokeswoman declined to address specific allegations in the lawsuit but said in an e-mail to The Times that “Los Angeles Airport Police complies with all anti-discrimination policies and procedures established by the city of Los Angeles.”

According to the lawsuit, Edward Corrington, Arthur Juliano and Jeff Shelton alleged that the environment at the department was “racially charged” and “permeated with discrimination.” Specialized units including the K-9 unit were dominated by black officers, the suit alleges.

The suit contends that the environment began at the academy and that the department’s recruiting arm was also predominantly black.

“In maintaining a virtually all-black division responsible for recruitment, background investigations and training, the department ignores the fact that Los Angeles has a population less than 10% black and an airport in which less than 5% of the passengers are black,” the officers’ attorney, Michael McGill, wrote in the lawsuit.

The lawsuit alleged that former airport security Chief James Butts Jr. requested a list of officers with their ethnicities after a 2007 test for sergeant promotions and “manipulated” the rankings so that more black officers would be promoted.

Butts, who resigned from the post last year and is now running for mayor of Inglewood, said he had not seen the lawsuit but vigorously denied the accusations.

“I definitely deny that any manipulation occurred while I was there that had any racial preference,” he said Wednesday. “Racial preferences were never a factor in any type of promotion or recruitment.”

The three officers also contend that they were unfairly disciplined by department officials.

According to the lawsuit, Shelton was transferred to the Van Nuys airport and ordered to stay away from LAX premises as a result of a sexual harassment complaint. Corrington was fired after an ex-girlfriend obtained a temporary restraining order and accused him of domestic violence. Juliano was subjected to a number of internal affairs complaints and investigations and received a “comment sheet” for calling officers by their first names. He no longer works for the department. The men contend that all the accusations were unfounded.

The lawsuit seeks unspecified damages and that the three be reinstated.