A former West Covina police officer is suing the city, saying he was fired for reporting alleged racial discrimination in the department and for testifying in favor of a black officer who eventually settled his own case against the San Gabriel Valley community.
Jesse Miller’s Los Angeles Superior Court lawsuit alleges retaliation and seeks unspecified damages.
West Covina City Attorney Kimberly Barlow did not immediately reply to a request for comment.
In August, the city reached a settlement with former Officer Joshua Volasgis, who sued the city and four of his white ex-supervisors, alleging he was fired in 2017 after a little more than a year on the job for complaining that he was harassed because of his race and was called “big black ghetto cop” and “the black kid.”
According to his lawsuit, Volasgis performed his duties in an “exemplary fashion” after being hired by the city in June 2016. He claimed that throughout his employment, his supervisors told him his main focus should be to “stop blacks in West Covina” because he had “free reign over the black community because plaintiff does not have to fear any allegations of racial bias.”
The city and Lt. Ronald Allen, Lt. Kenneth Plunket, Sgt. Houston Clements and Sgt. Brian Prizzi were named as defendants in the Volasgis suit, which alleged racial discrimination and harassment, retaliation and failure to prevent harassment and discrimination.
The city countered that Volasgis was the subject of multiple citizen complaints, including one brought in 2016 by a black man unhappy about how the officer had treated him and a woman who accused him of being rude and of lying on a police report in 2017.
Miller, who is white, began speaking out in November 2016, saying he believed Volasgis was being treated unfairly because he is black, according to his suit.
In April 2018, Miller gave a deposition in the Volasgis case and corroborated that officer’s allegations against the WCPD, the Miller suit states. Specifically, Miller stated that Allen had made “derogatory and racial comments and gestures” toward Volasgis, the Miller suit states.
In retaliation, Miller was suspended without pay for nearly eight months, placed under greater department scrutiny, falsely accused of violating WCPD policies, subjected to meritless investigations and fired on Aug. 30, his suit states.
“Notably, plaintiff was terminated by defendant just 17 days after the Volasgis case was resolved,” the Miller suit states.