A former Los Angeles police bloodhound handler sued the city Tuesday, alleging he suffered a backlash for reporting the alleged sexual harassment of one of his three colleagues in the unit by a supervisor.
LAPD Officer Elliot Zibli filed the retaliation suit in Los Angeles Superior Court, saying he was forced to retire earlier than he wanted to because of stress. He is seeking unspecified damages.
Rob Wilcox, a spokesman for the City Attorney’s Office, said the lawsuit will be reviewed after it is received, but that he could not comment further.
Zibli first began working with police dogs in 1998 and became a bloodhound handler in 2015 in the LAPD’s gang and narcotics division, according to his court papers, which say Sgt. Joe Danny Garcia was put in charge of their unit the same year. Soon thereafter, Garcia began to harass Zibli’s colleague, Karolin Clarke, by making inappropriate comments, massaging her shoulders and pressing his body up against hers, the suit alleges.
In January 2016, Zibli told another lieutenant that Garcia was harassing Clarke, but instead of taking corrective action, the K-9 unit supervisors “undertook a pattern of retaliation” against Zibli and his fellow officers, the plaintiff claims.
Zibli alleges he was denied additional training, not given adequate weapons and backup officer support during searches and given assignments far from his home.
“The department’s retaliatory actions toward (Zibli) increasingly placed his safety, as well as the safety of the other bloodhound handlers, at risk,” the suit says.
Zibli alleges he was subjected to more retribution for being part of a lawsuit that he, Clarke and two others dog handlers filed against the city in August 2016 concerning the alleged harassment of Clarke and the ensuing retaliation they say they endured. Clarke settled her part of the case, subject to City Council approval.
Zibli and Officer David Dooros remain plaintiffs in the earlier lawsuit. Officer Ricardo Sanchez dropped his claims in April.
Zibli says he was forced to resign last July and that he did so earlier than he planned because he was concerned about his health and safety.