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Trial for female Burbank cop alleging discrimination to start next week

It's the third trial to involve claims from a current or former police official that includes allegations of ethnic harassment and discrimination.

May 04, 2012|By Maria Hsin, maria.hsin@latimes.com

The trial for a lawsuit filed by Burbank Police Officer Cindy Guillen — who is alleging racial and ethnic discrimination, in addition to harassment due to her marital status and pregnancy — is expected to start next week after attorneys wrapped up jury selection Friday in Los Angeles County Superior Court.

Guillen, who is Latino, also alleged in her lawsuit filed in 2009 that when she complained to commanders, she faced retaliation — echoing claims filed by other former and current officers who have sued the Police Department.

It is the third trial in as many months that involved claims from police officials that include allegations of ethnic harassment and discrimination.

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Guillen was the first Latina officer hired by the department when she began in 2000, according to the complaint.

Attorneys for both sides spent two full days in downtown Los Angeles this week weeding through prospective jurors, setting the stage for opening arguments next week.

Guillen is one of five current and former officers who filed the lawsuit jointly, alleging harassment and discrimination.

Det. Steve Karagiosian, an Armenian American who was awarded $150,000 last month by a jury, was another plaintiff in the suit. He claimed fellow officers, including supervisors, repeatedly used anti-Armenian slurs.

Det. Jamal Childs, former Lt. Omar Rodriguez and former officer Elfego Rodriguez were all dropped from the lawsuit for various reasons.

Omar Rodriguez, who is of Cuban descent and has a case pending in federal court, was the first Latino promoted above the rank of sergeant at the department, according to the lawsuit.

The city was incorporated in 1911.

Former Deputy Chief William Taylor — who was among 10 officers, including Omar Rodriguez and Elfego Rodriguez, who were terminated in 2010 — filed a lawsuit in 2009 alleging he was retaliated against, demoted and ultimately fired because he blocked the firing of minority officers, among other reasons.

Taylor, who is white, was awarded nearly $1.3 million by a jury in March. The city recently filed a motion for a new trial.

Burbank has spent more than $1 million through March in legal fees on the Taylor case and at least $3.4 million in the lawsuit filed by Guillen and the other officers, according to city documents.

Those records do not include the costs involved for the Karagiosian trial since invoices had not been received by the city at the time they were made public.

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