A Los Angeles police captain deserves up to $5 million in damages because his promotion was delayed for complaining about Chief Charlie Beck‘s alleged expectation that all officers sent to Board of Rights hearings for serious misconduct should be fired, the captain’s attorney told a jury Tuesday.
However, Deputy City Attorney Douglas Lyon said no captain was ever urged to recommend an officer be fired unless the evidence supported it.
Lyon said he believed the city had no liability in Capt. Byford “Peter” Whittingham’s case, but that if the panel was inclined to award any money the maximum should be $50,000.
The differing opinions were given during closing arguments of the Los Angeles Superior Court trial of Whittingham’s retaliation suit against the city.
Whittingham maintains he received a delayed promotion for objecting to the alleged policy and for complaining that race played a decision in the discipline of some minority officers.
On Board of Rights hearings, two captains sit with a civilian to weigh evidence about officers and make recommendations to Beck about any possible punishment.
Beck testified last week that officers should be recommended for firing only if the evidence supports such an action, a point Lyon repeated to the jury.
However, Whittingham’s attorney, Robert Brown, said four LAPD officer corroborated Whittingham’s Board of Rights claims, including Capt. Lillian Carranza, who herself sued the city for similar reasons.
“Those people impeached the command staff,” Brown said.
Brown said Whittingham believed it was his obligation to not go along with Beck’s alleged edict.
“He essentially was not going to be a rubber stamp for the chief,” Brown said, adding that the captain believed the accused officers were entitled to due process.
Whittingham was given his first promotion within the captain rank in 2014, when he was elevated to captain 2 after having served as a captain 1 since 2009.
Beck testified that Whittingham’s promotion came shortly after his lawsuit was filed, but that the case had nothing to do with his decision.
However, Brown said the LAPD was simply “throwing him a bone” by promoting Whittingham after he sued.
After previously claiming that Whittingham had questionable leadership skills and sometimes did not get along with his subordinates, the LAPD command staff suddenly reversed position and gave him the advancement already long overdue, Brown said.
However, Lyon said Whittingham has been promoted 10 times during his career since joining the department in 1988.
“He’s overstated his claims,” Lyon said.
Whittingham is in charge of about 85 LAPD personnel in his current position as head of the Criminal Gang Homicide Division, located in the South Bureau, Lyon said.
–City News Service