A jury Tuesday collectively awarded $8.6 million to an LAPD bloodhound handler and his former colleague, who both said they suffered a backlash for coming forward to allege that their unit chief sexually harassed a female member of their team and falsified overtime claims.
The Los Angeles Superior Court jury deliberated for about a half day before finding in favor of retired Officer Elliot Zibli and David Dooros, who were openly emotional as they heard the clerk for Judge Yolanda Orozco read the whistleblower retaliation verdicts in their favor.
Zibli, who is no longer with the Los Angeles Police Department, was awarded $4.4 million and Doros received $4.2 million.
Both said afterward that they were confident that by speaking the truth, they would prevail. They also said that none of the defense witnesses presented consistent testimony and that they would discourage any young person considering a law enforcement career from signing up with the Los Angeles Police Department.
“I have almost 30 years and I never thought I’d say that about the department I once loved,” Dooros said.
Zibli, 54, first began working with police dogs in 1998 and became a bloodhound handler in 2015. Dooros, 52, has been a dog handler since 1998 and switched from narcotics animals to bloodhounds in August 2015.
Sgt. Joe Danny Garcia was put in charge of the bloodhound unit in 2015. Soon thereafter, Garcia began to harass the plaintiffs’ colleague, Karolin Clarke, by making inappropriate comments, massaging her shoulders and pressing his body up against hers, according to trial testimony.
Dooros and Zibli later went to management to allege that Garcia was harassing Clarke and falsifying his overtime claims. Instead of taking corrective action, the K-9 unit supervisors undertook a pattern of retaliation against Zibli and Dooros, according to the plaintiffs.
Zibli and Dooros said they were denied additional training, not given adequate weapons and backup officer support during searches and given assignments far from his home.
Zibli said he was forced to resign in July 2017 and that he did so earlier than he had planned because he was concerned about his health and safety.
Though Dooros is still with the LAPD, he says that his work conditions caused him to enter a program in July 2016 in which he will formally retire earlier than he otherwise would have. He said that had the alleged retaliation not occurred, he would have stayed up to five more years.
Clarke, 47, also sued the city, but reached a settlement. Clarke was in court with her former colleagues for the verdict in their case.
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