Armenian cops allege discrimination

Three Armenian Glendale police officers filed a lawsuit Monday in Los Angeles County Superior Court, alleging racial discrimination and continued retaliation after they filed a claim against the department in federal court two years ago.

Officers Vahak Mardikian, John Balian and Tigran Topadzhikyan also allege in the latest lawsuit filed against the city and high-ranking members of the Glendale Police Department that they have been unfairly placed on paid administrative leave.

The attorney representing the officers did not return requests for comment Wednesday.

The officers claim Police Chief Ron De Pompa and members of his command staff “use administrative leave and internal affairs investigations as reckless abuse of power to intimidate and retaliate, as well as to send a fearful message to other employees that, if they engage the department in litigation or support those who do, they too will be subjected to the same type of treatment.”

City Atty. Mike Garcia on Tuesday denied the allegations in the lawsuit.

And in a statement, De Pompa said that as the chief of police, “I have the responsibility of effectively administering this department and providing policing services to this community, whether or not we are involved in litigation.”

Balian, Mardikian and Topadzhikyan — along with Officer Robert Parseghian and former Officer Benny Simonzad — jointly filed a federal lawsuit in 2010 alleging years of on-the-job discrimination, retaliation and harassment because they’re Armenian.

Litigation in that suit remains ongoing.

In the latest claim, the officers also allege that they were the victims of unfounded internal affairs investigations in the wake of the federal discrimination lawsuit.

Topadzhikyan alleges he was placed on administrative leave in October for reporting discrimination, whistle-blowing and supporting other officers who complained about discrimination.

He also claims that management officials ordered him not to speak about the department’s misconduct, and that he must remain at home from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. during his leave.

The continued harassment and retaliation allegedly pushed Balian to suffer “dangerously high” blood pressure, forcing him out of work for more than a week, according to the lawsuit.

When he complained about the harassment, he claims the department placed him on administrative leave for more than six months.

Mardikian claims that he has remained on administrative leave since March 2011 without an explanation, and that he was demoted after defending officers who were treated unfairly, according to the lawsuit.

But Garcia said the claims filed in Superior Court rehash many of the allegations made in the federal lawsuit, and come as the higher court considers the city’s motion for summary judgment.

“This move seems to be a thinly disguised attempt at judicial forum shopping,” Garcia said in an email. ”The city will continue to defend itself against these allegations, which we believe do not have merit.”

The officers also claim they were looked over for promotions and were denied career-building opportunities.

And as minority candidates in the department failed in their efforts to advance to the lieutenant position, the police chief made a bid to lower the educational standards to make it easier for less qualified candidates to apply, according to the lawsuit.

The Police Department’s process of adjusting its educational and training requirements was open and transparent, Garcia said, adding that the changes were ultimately approved by the Civil Service Commission.

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