A former Los Angeles police commander is suing the city, alleging he was chastised by Chief Michel Moore for maintaining his Air Force Reserve status and was eventually forced to retire earlier this year because of the department’s hostility toward his military service.
Edward Prokop’s Los Angeles Superior Court lawsuit alleges discrimination and harassment based on military service. He seeks unspecified damages in the suit brought Wednesday, which alleges he was repeatedly passed over for promotion to deputy chief in favor of less qualified candidates due to his refusal to give up his military duties.
“Plainly, (Prokop) was being frozen out of a continued successful career at the LAPD based on his military status,” the suit states.
Seeing the writing on the wall, Prokop was forced to retire early on Jan. 7 “due to the wrongful actions of his LAPD superiors targeting him based on his military status,” the suit states.
Prokop, who was a 27-year LAPD veteran, reenlisted in the Air Force Reserve in 2017 and attended a five-month Federal Police Academy training course as part of his military service in 2018, the suit states.
Shortly thereafter, Prokop’s LAPD superiors subjected him to hostility in the workplace and discrimination based on his military status, including unwarranted and excessive scrutiny of the plaintiff’s time and repeated denigrating comments about Prokop, the suit states.
Prokop met with Moore in October 2018, a few months after the chief’s appointment, and shared his experiences in the military, saying he believed it provided him valuable opportunities to acquire skills and knowledge useful for his LAPD work, the suit states.
However, Moore responded with words to the effect of, “That’s all well and good, but I believe you can’t serve two masters,” the suit states.
Moore also said, “I need and expect you here as a commander” and “I don’t want you going off to Guam on some investigative follow-up for three weeks,” the suit states.
“Prokop was shocked and distressed to hear the chief of police condemn his decision to reenlist in the military in this way,” the suit states. “Moore’s statements made clear to (Prokop) that his successful LAPD career was in jeopardy because of his military service.”
Prokop felt powerless to alter his superiors’ negative perception of his military service as inherently in conflict with his LAPD commitments and duties, thinking to himself, “I can’t get out of this,” the suit states.
He was just as committed to his LAPD duties as he was to the military, perceiving both to be complementary, the suit states.
“In particular, (Prokop) was eager to contribute to the LAPD the specialized skills and training he was gaining in the military that had direct application to law enforcement functions,” the suit states. “It pained him that his superiors portrayed him as disloyal and maligned him because of his military service.”
After using two weeks of military leave in February 2019, Prokop was removed from the position he had held since 2016 as commanding officer of the LAPD Special Operations Group, where he managed the SWAT diving and air support units, to the Support Services Group, relegating him to overseeing the functioning and maintenance of the LAPD’s vehicle fleet, 911 operators and jails, the suit states.
“Virtually overnight after he returned from his military training, he found himself in a dead-end assignment being maligned by his superiors who apparently perceived his military commitments as a threat,” the suit states.
Further, Prokop’s superiors in December 2019 denied him an outside work permit and deprived him of a valuable professional networking opportunity without any legitimate basis because of his military service, preventing him from taking advantage of his selection by the International Association of Chiefs of Police to provide consulting services to another law enforcement agency, the suit states.
The permit denial was “evidently part of the broader effort by (Prokop’s) superiors to sideline him and render him irrelevant because of his military service,” the suit states.