A Los Angeles police captain was denied promotions for objecting to what he says was Chief Charlie Beck’s belief that all officers sent to Board of Rights hearings should be fired, an attorney told a jury Thursday, but a lawyer for the city said the captain has received multiple rank increases during his career.
The lawyers gave their opening statements to a Los Angeles Superior Court jury hearing the trial of Capt. Byford (Peter) Whittingham ‘s retaliation lawsuit.
Whittingham is a Jamaican native and one-time security guard who joined the LAPD in 1988 in his mid-thirties. The captain sued the city in April 2014, alleging retaliation and discrimination. He later dropped the discrimination claims.
Whittingham’s leadership style has been shaped by such “troubling incidents” as the 1991 Rodney King beating and the Rampart scandal involving corruption within an anti-gang unit, according to plaintiff’s attorney Robert Brown.
Whittingham was promoted to captain in May 2009 by former Chief William Bratton, Brown said. But his fortunes came to a “grinding halt” six months later when Beck was named chief, Brown said.
The LAPD has three grades of positions within the captain rank, Brown explained. Whittingham did not obtain an upgrade from captain 1 to captain 2 until June 2014, even though others who once worked for him were given upgrades sooner, according to Brown.
According to Brown, during a meeting of LAPD personnel of the rank of captain or above, an LAPD deputy chief told all command staff that when Beck sends an officer to a Board of Rights hearing, the chief expects that officer to be fired.
Whittingham declined to go along with Beck’s line of thinking, Brown said.
While working in the Hollywood Division, Whittingham also questioned the demotion of a black officer, putting him at odds with a higher-ranking captain, Brown said.
Although Whittingham was promoted after five years of waiting and is now the head of the LAPD’s Criminal Gang Homicide Division, he sued because he believes his contributions to the department have not been recognized in a way they should be, Brown said.
But Deputy City Attorney Jenna Galas told jurors that Whittingham has steadily advanced from his early days as a police officer to Thursday being part of the LAPD’s command staff. He makes more than $150,000 annually.
“The department has never shied away from promoting Capt. Whittingham and nothing is preventing him from promoting higher,” Galas said.
Beck is scheduled to testify Monday.
— Wire reports
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