GLENDALE, CA–Leaders and activists from the Armenian National Committee of Glendale on Tuesday attended a session of the Glendale City council where they voiced concern over the city police department’s discrimination and harassment of five Armenian police officers. Below is the statement they read to the five-person city council.
On January 20, 2010, four current and one former sworn officers of the Glendale Police Department Filed a Federal Civil Rights lawsuit in Federal Court alleging Discrimination, Harassment, and Retaliation on the basis of National Origin and Ancestry. The allegations made in the complaint are both disturbing and appalling. Even if a fraction of these allegations in the complaint are established in a court of law, the City of Glendale has a long way to go on the way to becoming the city that we all envision and deserve.
The Armenian National Committee of Glendale is gravely concerned about the statement made by the City Attorney, Mr. Scott Howard, immediately following the filing of the Complaint. According to the Glendale News Press article of January 25, 2010, City Attorney Scott Howard stated, “There are many allegations in the complaint, which are absolutely, utterly false.” We would expect that the City Attorney’s office at the very least, conduct a preliminary investigation before opining about the merits of serious allegations such as those contained in the complaint.
The Glendale Police Department has a track record of lawsuits stemming from discrimination and improper conduct by its officers, many of which have resulted in settlements or jury verdicts against the City, and even punitive damages against individual police officers. The 2009 jury verdict and $1.58 million judgment, including attorney fees, in the Ovasapian v. City of Glendale case, is the latest example in this now long list of cases resulting in adverse court decisions. The City’s inability and unwillingness to conduct meaningful and objective investigations into the merits of such complaints and police misconduct in the past, have resulted in many millions of dollars which Glendale residents have been forced to bear.
In fact, even after an adverse judgment in the Ovasapian case, the City Council, during public session, made a statement absolving the Police Officers and the Department of any wrong doing and assuming the $150,000 punitive damages award against the individual officers. Despite the finding of malice by the Federal Court and jury, the Glendale City Council released the following statement during its October 27, 2009 meeting “We recognize that this was a very unfortunate incident, however… we find that the officers acted in good faith, without actual malice and an apparent best interest of the city of Glendale.” In effect, the City Council condoned the wrongful acts of these police officers. Not surprisingly, both officers are named defendants in the current law suit.
In the months to come, the judicial process will be guided by a Federal District Court Judge and the outcome decided by a jury. In the meantime, It is very important that officials of the City of Glendale and the Glendale Police Department refrain from drawing conclusions about this lawsuit, until there is a full investigation and due process. It is also very important that as the judicial process runs its course, the police officers presenting these charges be shielded from any direct or indirect workplace harassment or retaliation. The Armenian National Committee of Glendale will be closely monitoring this case with the expectation that there will be full transparency in the investigation, and the confidence that the judicial system will reveal the facts and lead to an ultimate fair outcome.