Jury sides with Glendale Police

BURBANK — Capping an end to a tense trial that pitted the Glendale Police Department against one of its veteran officers, a jury found on Friday that the department did not engage in discrimination in denying the officer's attempts at promotion.

Twenty-two-year Officer Patricia Larrigan, who was injured on the job in 1994, alleged that she was denied a promotion to sergeant because of her disabilities. But department officials argued that while Larrigan passed two of three portions of the sergeant testing process in 2003 and 2005, she never passed all three.

In order to side with Larrigan, the jury would have had to find that the department “took adverse employment actions” against her. But since Larrigan was allowed to remain on the force after being injured — she has since held positions that do not require patrol duty — nine of 12 jurors found that Larrigan was not treated unfairly, juror Carrie Work said.

“Had they failed to accommodate her after the test, that would have been a different situation,” Work said.

The department has long upheld a common police practice to assign new sergeants to patrol, a task that Larrigan, as one of two permanently modified-duty officers on the force, is not able to perform.

Larrigan's attorney, Frank Jelinch, argued that many sergeant positions do not require patrol work and that to deny a disabled officer an accommodation violates the California Fair Employment and Housing Act.

Much of Larrigan's case hinged on her testimony that two superiors intimidated her and discouraged her from seeking a promotion despite the department's policy against promoting permanently disabled personnel to sergeant.

Larrigan testified that Capt. Michael Rock told her that no matter how well she did on the tests, she wouldn't be promoted. She also recounted a meeting with Capt. Lief Nicolaisen when he allegedly urged her not to proceed with the promotion process.

Nicolaisen and Rock denied the allegations.

The promotion process entails a written test and two oral board exams, one of which is conducted by an internal panel, with the other done by an external panel. Larrigan passed the written exam in 2003 and 2005but was denied first by the external panel, then by the internal panel.

Police Chief Randy Adams testified that he advised the panel members not to select a candidate who could not do the job, or who they wouldn't feel comfortable with in their own department or division.

Juror Laureen Swisher, who was among the three who sided with Larrigan, interpreted Adams' testimony as a warning not to hire Larrigan.

“He singled her out,” Swisher said.

But ultimately, most jurors felt that Larrigan was given a fair crack at the promotion.

“Although we felt some of the actions taken by the Police Department were not necessarily appropriate or could have been handled better .?.?. the bottom line was she didn't have any more harm by those actions than would have been suffered by anyone else,” said Work, who noted that she switched her vote on the verdict at the last minute. “You come against obstacles in your workplace all the time.”

Pending a post-trial ruling by the judge, Larrigan said she did not know whether she would file an appeal.

She will resume work at the department on Tuesday, she said.

A Page A1 story (“Jury sides with Glendale Police,” Saturday) incorrectly stated that Officer Patricia Larrigan alleged that Glendale Police Capt. Lief Nicolaisen urged her not to proceed with the promotion process.


?RYAN VAILLANCOURT covers business, politics and the foothills. He may be reached at (818) 637-3215 or by e-mail at ryan.vaillancourt@ latimes.com.

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