A former Baldwin Park police chief who alleges she was wrongfully fired in 2013 because of her gender told a jury Wednesday that a subordinate constantly undermined her with the help of a council member and refused to call her by her title.
Testifying before a Los Angeles Superior Court jury hearing trial of her lawsuit against the city of Baldwin Park, Lili Hadsell said that in addition to her differences with Capt. Michael Taylor, she also battled a mostly male police force reluctant to adopt her ideas of working closer with the community.
Even a head deputy district attorney referred to the department’s officers as “cowboys,” the 63-year-old plaintiff said.
Hadsell was hired by the city in 1999 and appointed police chief in 2008. She alleges in her court papers that after being named to the job, she became the victim of tokenism by city officials and was “paraded around as a prop to celebrate themselves for having a female police chief.”
Hadsell alleges she was undermined before her subordinates when City Councilman Ricardo Pacheco told them a woman could not handle the chief’s job.
She alleges Pacheco was also behind blog posts such as one that stated, “I believe the only police work Hadsell did was on her knees to get promoted through the ranks.”
Hadsell was fired on Dec. 10, 2013, and replaced with Taylor. Hadsell’s complaint filed in June 2014 alleges Pacheco and Taylor “worked in concert to harass and discredit” her while she was chief.
Attorney Dana McCune, on behalf of the city, has countered that Hadsell had problems with the rank-and-file members of the department and said two of the three council members who voted to oust her were women.
In her testimony, Hadsell said she was born in Peru and immigrated to the U.S. with her family at the age of 4 as they searched for a better life. They settled first in El Sereno and later in San Gabriel, she said.
She said she began her law enforcement career in 1976 as a police cadet with the Pasadena Police Department. In 1983, she became the second woman police officer for the San Marino Police Department. She said that during her time in the small San Gabriel Valley city, she worked on two high-profile cases. One involved that of 46-year-old Leonardo Morita, who started an arson fire in 1995 that killed his wife, three children and a housekeeper. Morita later died of his injuries.
She said she also worked the case of Christian Karl Gerhartsreiter, a con man who once passed himself off as a member of the wealthy Rockefeller family and was later convicted of murdering his San Marino landlady’s son in 1985 and burying the man’s remains in the backyard.
Hadsell, who said she also was the first female manager in the BPPD when she joined as a lieutenant, said she worried about the potential liability the city faced from the way police pursuits of suspects were conducted. But her colleagues brushed her off, she said.
Hadsell said she was “flabbergasted” when Mayor Manuel Lozano asked if she was interested in becoming the city’s top cop.
“I told him I’d be absolutely honored,” she said.
Hadsell said that despite her credentials and a 4-1 City Council vote appointing her as Baldwin Park police chief, the idea of a female head of the department was immediately unsettling to some, including Taylor.
“He was furious,” she said. “He was really upset. He went out of his way to make sure he didn’t see me.”
Hadsell said she waited a week to give Taylor “some space” before meeting with him to try and resolve their differences. She said she always believed disputes can best be resolved through negotiations.
But after the sitting down with Taylor, his response was, “Whatever,” according to Hadsell.
Matters between her and Taylor only got worse, she said.
“I just felt he was obstructing, undermining the things I was trying to do,” Hadsell said.
Asked by plaintiff’s attorney Carney Shegerian if Taylor ever called her “chief,” Hadsell said he only referred to her as “Lil.”
Hadsell said she found the monicker inappropriate because it wasn’t even her name. She said that she still calls her former chiefs “chief” out of respect.