Judge clears way for joint police officer lawsuit against Glendale

Four current and a former Glendale Armenian American police officers can move forward with their federal discrimination and harassment lawsuit against the city after a judge last week refused to throw out the claims.

U.S. District Court Judge Josephine Tucker denied most of the city’s motion to throw out the claims, although some that were filed against certain police commanders were dropped.

“We were confident that the ruling would occur as it has,” the officers’ attorney Carney Shegerian said in an email. “The defendants have no real defenses to the allegations in our complaint — they are all true and will be proven as such at trial.”

Officers Vahak Mardikian, John Balian, Tigran Topadzhikyan, Robert Parseghian and former Officer Benny Simonzad filed a joint federal lawsuit in 2010 against the city and Police Department, alleging years of on-the-job discrimination, retaliation and harassment because they're Armenian.

Mardikian, Balian and Topadzhikyan filed a separate lawsuit in March in Los Angeles County Superior Court alleging continued racial discrimination and retaliation in the Police Department after they filed their federal case.

Tucker denied the city’s motions to drop the discrimination and retaliation claims filed by all the officers except for Parseghian. In doing so, the judge let stand a mix of charges, including that some were intentionally not promoted and that commanders failed to prevent harassment.

“We were hopeful that the court would dismiss more of the case at this stage,” City Atty. Mike Garcia said in a statement Monday. “However, we are pleased that the court resolved several claims in favor of some of the individual city defendants.”

With the next step being a jury trial, Garcia said attorneys will “successfully explain” instances in Tucker’s order in which she describes some of the officers’ evidence as lacking foundation.

“We have strong evidence showing the city's actions were for legitimate, non-discriminatory business reasons,” he said.

Tucker’s order pointed out that the officers’ failed to show statistical evidence for discrimination against Armenians.

But Tucker did identify “potentially relevant” conduct, including a memo that was posted in the Police Department’s briefing room that allegedly mocked Armenian Genocide commemorative events.

The judge also took note of alleged comments made to certain officers, including that they were “watched closely because you are Armenian” and derogatory statements and stereotypes of Armenians, according to the court order.

Mardikian also alleges the Police Department hired a private investigator to conduct surveillance on him.

Twitter: @VeronicaRochaLA

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