A judge Monday told lawyers for the city of Whittier and four current and two retired police officers who sued over alleged traffic citation quotas that he will move forward with a preliminary non-jury trial on whether the plaintiffs should have tried to tried to resolve their grievances internally before going to court.
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Robert Broadbelt III, on the first day of his new civil court assignment, said he wants to know what issues should be decided by him or a jury and what evidence will be presented in a non-jury trial. He set another hearing for Oct. 3.
Broadbelt was handed the case by Judge Howard Halm, who retired in August. In April, Halm denied a motion by the city to dismiss the case, but cited new law in finding that a judge should decide whether the officers were obligated to attempt to have their issues decided at the city level.
The plaintiffs’ lawyers maintained that even if the alleged retaliatory actions taken against the officers were eligible to be heard internally, the city’s process for doing so does not guarantee they can cross-examine witnesses.
Attorney Arthur Cunningham, on behalf of the city, stated in his court papers that no arrest or traffic citation quota exists at the WPD.
The plaintiffs are former Cpl. Joseph Rivera and ex-Officer Nancy Ogle, who are both now retired; and current Officers Anthony Gonzalez, Jim Azpilicueta, Steve Johnson and Mike Rosario.
The suit, filed in March 2015, alleges that the WPD in 2008 “imposed an unlawful citation and arrest quota” in violation of the state Vehicle Code. The quotas were used as a “benchmark for performance,” according to the lawsuit, which alleges that the WPD “thereafter retaliated against those who refused to participate in and/or reported the unlawful citation and arrest quotas.”
The six officers repeatedly complained about the alleged quotas to their supervisors and members of the Internal Affairs Division, in the belief that the standards were unlawful, according to their lawsuit.
In response, the officers allege the WPD punished them by placing negative language in their personnel files, putting them under increased scrutiny, requiring them to undergo unneeded counseling and subjecting them to unwarranted transfers.
“Plaintiffs spoke out not only for the rights of themselves and their fellow officers, but also for the rights of the public by speaking out against what they believed to be an unlawful citation and arrest quota …,” the suit states.
The careers of all six officers have been “irreparably harmed and damaged” by the alleged retaliation, which also has caused them significant emotional distress, according to their court papers.