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Officer's suit claims he was fired over discrimination, sexual harassment concerns

Ex-deputy police chief's case is the first of several scheduled to hit the courtroom.

March 06, 2012|By Maria Hsin, maria.hsin@latimes.com

The first of several lawsuits filed against Burbank by current and former police officials went to trial this week, with the attorney for an ex-deputy police chief calling what took place in the department one of the most “egregious” cases of mistreatment he's ever seen.

In his lawsuit against the city, William Taylor alleges that he was demoted and eventually fired because he informed city officials and former Police Chief Tim Stehr about concerns of discrimination and sexual harassment, and because he pressed for an outside investigation into a burglary that allegedly took place in police headquarters.

Taylor’s case is among several lawsuits filed against the city by former and current police officers following the Porto’s robbery in 2007. The lawsuits include allegations of racial discrimination, sexual harassment and retaliatory firing.

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Other lawsuits are scheduled for trial in the coming months.

Taylor was fired in 2010 along with nine other officers for alleged misconduct during the Porto’s Bakery robbery investigation. He filed his lawsuit in 2009, the same year the FBI confirmed it was investigating the Police Department for excessive use of force and civil rights violations for its handling of the Porto's Bakery robbery.

City Manager Mike Flad, former Mayor Marsha Ramos and the widow of Burbank Police Sgt. Neil Gunn Sr. were among those called to testify in Taylor's case this week.

Gregory Smith, Taylor's attorney, said before jury selection Monday morning that in his many years of litigating and as a member of the Los Angeles Police Protective League, “I've never seen something as egregious as this.”

Defense attorney Ronald Frank said the city would show that Taylor interfered in an internal investigation, and that he was not demoted. Rather, Stehr was restructuring a department in turmoil.

Flad also denied in his testimony that Taylor had raised concerns involving racial discrimination, sexual harassment or a burglary in police headquarters.

Taylor was a contender for the position of chief when Stehr retired, Flad said, and described the deputy as someone with “very high morals.”

But when asked if he believed Taylor obstructed an internal affairs investigation — the reason the city has given for his termination — Flad said: “I don’t know.”

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