The former head of an LAPD bloodhound-handling team denied Thursday that he sexually harassed a female member of the squad and said he resigned from his position because he believed people he supervised would do anything to have him removed.
Detective Joe Danny Garcia told a Los Angeles Superior Court jury that he stepped down in January 2016 after about eight months of heading the bloodhound team after a lieutenant told him people he supervised were making accusations against him, and he “decided then and there it was not worth it for me.”
Garcia was called as a witness for the city of Los Angeles as trial continued in a lawsuit brought by current bloodhound handler David Dooros, 52, and his 54-year-old retired colleague, Elliot Zibli. Both allege they suffered a backlash from management after complaining that Garcia, then a sergeant, was sexually harassing another bloodhound handler, 47-year-old Karolin Clarke, who is also now retired.
Dooros and Zibli maintain Garcia harassed Clarke by making inappropriate comments, massaging her shoulders and pressing his body up against hers. They maintain that after coming forward with their complaints against Garcia, the K-9 unit supervisors “undertook a pattern of retaliation” against the pair and Clarke, denying them additional training, adequate weapons and backup officer support during searches.
Dooros also said he was passed over for a dog training position in favor of another candidate who was less qualified.
Zibli testified that during a dog handler demonstration visit to Garcia’s daughter’s school in June 2015, Garcia said, “So when we go in there, there’s going to be a lot of cougars, so make sure you let your puppy go ahead of you, and all the women will bend down, and we’ll get a nice show.”
On the stand Thursday, Garcia denied making the remark.
In a sworn declaration, Clarke said Garcia confronted her in October 2015 after seeing her in a Costco in Santa Clarita during work hours three weeks earlier buying bottled water.
“I found it odd that Sgt. Garcia did not approach me when he saw me at Costco, as I would have explained to him why I was there,” she said in her declaration.
Garcia testified that he sat down with Clarke at her desk and counseled her to not shop while on duty.
Clarke also sued the city, but reached a settlement.
Zibli and Dooros both maintain their health has been seriously affected because of the alleged retaliation and Dooros says he will leave the LAPD sooner than he planned.