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Armenian cop alleges ethnic slurs, harassment

Burbank detective claims six officers made offending comments, including one who was suspended for 12 hours.

March 23, 2012|By Maria Hsin, maria.hsin@latimes.com

Testimony in another trial pitting a police officer against the city began this week in Los Angeles County Superior Court, this time centering on claims that an Armenian American detective endured ethnic slurs and other forms of harassment.

Burbank Police Det. Steve Karagiosian's attorney, Solomon Gresen, said in his opening statement Thursday that evidence would show ethnic slurs against his client were made and corroborated by other officers.

Gresen said his client was “no ordinary officer.”

“From the time he passed probationary status, he received outstanding performance evaluations,” Gresen said, noting that Karagiosian was named Officer of the Year in 2007.

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After Karagiosian's probationary period passed, “he started hearing comments, about him and people on the street,” and started to complain as early as 2007, Gresen said.

One of the six officers Karagiosian alleges made racial slurs was suspended for about 12 hours, Gresen said.

Officer Aaron Kendrick was accused of calling Armenians “towel heads,” which was corroborated by four other officers, according to documents presented in court that were based on an investigation by outside attorney Irma Rodriguez Moisa.

Former Police Chief Tim Stehr was the first witness in the trial, taking the stand Thursday to weigh in on the allegations.

“I believe it falls under the harassment section,” Stehr said when asked if Kendrick's statement violated a department or city policy.

Kendrick also allegedly told Karagiosian he was hired and promoted only because he was Armenian.

“It could be a violation,” Stehr said, adding that the first statement could also be a violation that would have to be investigated further.

Some in the department thought their comments were funny, Stehr said, adding that in general, he didn't want anyone in the department saying anything about another ethnic group.

He felt people in the department needed to be educated and recommended additional training for the department, Stehr added.

A four-hour diversity training course and a trip to the Museum of Tolerance was required of all people under his supervision after an anonymous letter surfaced in March 2008 about discrimination in the department, Stehr said.

Additional training for Kendrick and the five other officers who allegedly made disparaging comments about Armenians or toward Karagiosian was not recommended, Stehr testified.

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