California

LAPD captain files sexual harassment lawsuit, alleging culture of sexism, cruel pranks in department

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The lawsuit by Capt. Lillian Carranza is the latest in a series of serious allegations made by women in the LAPD.
(Cortesía)

A Los Angeles Police captain alleged in a lawsuit against the department that she was the victim of sexual harassment and a hostile work environment after a “deeply humiliating” photo of a nude woman was passed around the force that some falsely claimed was her.

The lawsuit is the latest in a series of serious allegations made by women in the department describing a crude, sexist culture inside the ranks.

Capt. Lillian Carranza, who oversees the commercial crimes division that handles high-profile burglary investigations, claims the LAPD knew the image was repeatedly shared by department personnel along with derogatory comments about her. The picture was shared along with another sexually explicit image of a detective.

That detective, Ysabel Villegas, reported her incident to Glendora Police Department last November and has since got a restraining order against a male officer she says was responsible for beginning to circulate her image. In her report, she noted that another LAPD woman was also the subject of sexual photos being circulated.

In the suit filed Friday, Carranza alleges that LAPD Deputy Chief Debra McCarthy, who oversees internal LAPD investigations, has been aware of that information from the police report since last November and yet the department “took no steps to inform (her) of said misconduct specifically targeting her.”

“The chief encourages us to be vocal and transparent, but nothing could be further from the truth when it comes to sexual harassment. You are given a gag order, and then they do nothing to correct it,” Carranza, 50, said in an interview. “Zero tolerance in the LAPD for such behavior is symbolic. The reality is it is tolerated.”

Carranza said the department ordered her not to discuss her specific allegations.

“This is indicative of why it is so hard to recruit and promote women here,” she added.

The LAPD does not comment ongoing litigation.

The lawsuit is latest in a series of scandals related to sexual conduct and harassment in recent months. Assistant Chief Jorge Villegas retired suddenly after an under cover LAPD unit found him and a subordinate involved in sexual activity inside his unmarked police cruiser.

Carranza said she asked McCarthy and the department to “make clear that the female in the photograph in question was not in fact Plaintiff,” but nothing was done to communicate and condemn the sharing of the image, according to the suit.

McCarthy could not be reached for comment.

On Thursday, Carranza replied to the #MeTooMVMT #MeToo hashtag on Twitter, signaling she was a survivor of sexual misconduct.

Carranza says it is the latest in a series of derogatory incidents she has suffered as a female LAPD supervisor.

In November 2013, a detective supervisor teaching a training class was captured on audio telling Carranza was a “very cute little Hispanic lady” and she “been swapped around a bunch of times.” The detective, Frank Lyga, also suggested she could not find her behind with her hands, according to the lawsuit.

Carranza claims in the lawsuits that the department knew of the recording of the incident but never informed her until the officer who made the recording approached her with the tape.

The captain said she has endured years of sexual harassment inside a hostile workplace for women that included, “verbal harassment, epithets, derogatory comments, and/or slurs.”

Last August, Carranza sued the LAPD, alleging she was passed over for promotion when she brought forward evidence of some police divisions under-reporting crime statistics. Then-Chief Charlie Beck denounced the allegation as “damn lies.”

Last April, a jury awarded Officer Linda Allstot $3 million after her now-retired boss at internal affairs retaliated after she reported his sexual harassment by putting her under surveillance using a secret unit within the department. The city settled the case for $1.8 million after the judge cut the award by the jury.

Meanwhile, LAPD Officer Daniel Reedy is under investigation by police and prosecutors after Det. Villegas accused him of assault and distributing explicit images of her without her permission. Villegas, who has acknowledged having an extramarital affair with Reedy, was granted an extension of a restraining order against him.

Villegas is married to Jorge Villegas, the former assistant chief. He is the subject of an internal affairs investigation after sources said undercover officers witnessed him and a female subordinate in what appeared to be sexual activity inside his department-issued car outside a bar. Villegas announced his retirement in October and has declined to comment.

richard.winton@latimes.com

Twitter: @lacrimes