Police lieutenant's discrimination trial begins

An alleged lack of promotion and diversity in supervisory positions within the Glendale Police Department signaled the “good old boys were alive and well in Glendale,” Lt. Tigran Topadzhikyan’s attorney told jurors Tuesday as the trial in his federal discrimination lawsuit got underway.

Topadzhikyan, who claims he was often passed over for promotions because he is Armenian, was unfairly subjected to internal investigations despite being harassed and threatened, his attorney Bradley Gage said during his opening statement in the U.S. District Court in Riverside.

The repeated investigations of Topadzhikyan, he said, demonstrated to others that the “good old boys” would enforce “a code of silence.”

The Police Department, his attorney said, had a “history of discriminatory treatment” and harassment.

Topadzhikyan is one of five Armenian-American Glendale police officers who are suing the city for alleged discrimination and harassment.

Former Glendale Police Randy Adams, current Police Chief Ron De Pompa and Capt. Mike Rock, who were individually named as defendants in the lawsuit, sat and faced jurors in court on Tuesday as both sides laid out their cases.

Topadzhikyan, along with Officers Vahak Mardikian, Robert Parseghian, John Balian and Benny Simonzad, filed a joint lawsuit in 2010 against the Glendale Police Department and the city, claiming discrimination and retaliation because they're Armenian.

In 2012, Mardikian, Balian and Topadzhikyan filed a separate discrimination lawsuit in Los Angeles County Superior Court. That case has been delayed because of the ongoing federal case.

After repeated attempts to get promoted, Topadzhikyan came out on top of a list to become a lieutenant.

He was promoted last Wednesday — a move Topadzhikyan’s attorney pointed out came just days before his trial started.

Still, his attorney said Topadzhikyan had to struggle for years to get promoted within the department and was often passed up for “white males.”

The alleged harassment, his attorney said, has left Topadzhikyan broken.

But attorney Dana McCune, representing the Police Department and the city, argued in his opening statement that Topadzhikyan wasn’t unfairly passed up for promotion because he’s Armenian.

McCune said Topadzhikyan was encouraged by Adams and De Pompa to “study hard” when he didn’t pass a sergeant’s promotion test in 2009. Eventually, he did pass the test.

“You don’t always get what you want and you don’t always get it when you want it,” he said.

And while Topadzhikyan had been the subject of internal investigations, McCune said he praised the Police Department and Adams in interviews.

During Adams’ time as chief, his attorney said he reached out to Armenian TV and radio in an effort to hire more Armenian officers.

McCune claimed many derogatory statements will come out in trial that Topadzhikyan didn’t directly hear.

When a discriminatory statement or action was made, McCune said De Pompa and Adams handled it.

Testimony is expected to continue on Wednesday.

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Follow Veronica Rocha on Google+ and on Twitter: @VeronicaRochaLA.

 

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