Los Angeles Police Department Chief Michel Moore Thursday defended his decision not to grant a veteran captain’s request to send a department-wide notice that a nude photo of a woman purported in rumors to be the image of the captain was in fact not actually her.
Moore told a Los Angeles Superior Court jury hearing the trial of Capt. Lillian Carranza’s lawsuit that notifying the entire department of about 13,000 members could “create a viral interest, human or otherwise,” and would only further embarrass the captain by letting many people then unaware of the image to now want to see it.
Moore distinguished the Carranza photo from a Valentine-style image mocking the late George Floyd that was shared by an LAPD officer and which Moore said was broadcast worldwide. He said he sent out a statement throughout the LAPD, in part because the image could further citizen mistrust in the police.
“They’re not on the same scale,” Moore said.
Moore said his main interest was in finding the source of the nude photo, which displays a topless woman from the chest up with her hair covering her right eye.
In her suit brought in December 2019, Carranza alleges that LAPD command staff knew the naked image was being circulated within the force in 2018, along with disparaging comments about her, but didn’t tell the 33-year veteran, who at the time commanded Commercial Crimes Division and now leads the Gang and Narcotics Division.
In her suit brought in December 2019, Carranza is seeking damages for emotional distress. She is scheduled to testify Tuesday.
LAPD Internal Affairs received Carranza’s complaint from MyVoiceLA and an investigation ensued, according to former Sgt. Stacey Gray, the trial’s first witness, who retired in March. MyVoiceLA is the portal for current and former city employees seeking more information about their rights and responsibilities relating to discrimination, harassment, and/or retaliation and to submit complaints.
Gray said her attempts to gather information from Carranza during a telephone interview were sometimes stymied when the captain’s lawyer, Gregory W. Smith, who also was on the line and cut off the plaintiff’s answers on attorney-client privilege grounds.
Gray said she asked Carranza how she got a copy of the photo, Smith answered instead, saying, “She got it from me.”
Gray confirmed there was an incident at the then-Staples Center in 2018 in which one officer showed the photo to a group of colleagues. But she also said some officers she interviewed did not know about the photo or the rumors that it was an image of Carranza.
Smith said after Thursday’s testimony that the identification of the person who obtained and originally circulated the photo has never been determined. He also said stories about the photo had been widely distributed in the media.
In a sworn declaration, Carranza said she first learned of the photo being passed around in November 2018 and she obtained a copy from a non-LAPD employee.
“I noted that the facial features of the woman in the picture bore a striking resemblance to me, although the photograph was not actually of me,” Carranza says in the declaration. “In fact, I concluded that my own eye appears to have been photoshopped into the picture.”
After learning about of the widespread circulation of the nude photograph, Carranza said she became “keenly aware that many LAPD employees with whom I interact as I go about conducting my duties are likely to have observed LAPD employees displaying the nude picture or making derogatory comments about me related to this photograph at work.”
Carranza said the dissemination of the photo has left her “extremely humiliated and degraded in all my professional interactions, including with my superiors, subordinates, and co-workers.”
Many department members who Carranza has known for years believed the woman in the image was her, according to the plaintiff, who said she received little support from the LAPD command staff.
“I felt hurt, abandoned and devalued by my superiors … who took no steps to prevent known harm to me from occurring and who stood by and watched, encouraged or simply looked the other way as I was ridiculed, humiliated and degraded by fellow LAPD employees, despite my persistent pleas for help,” Carranza says in her declaration.
In his court papers, defense attorney Mark W. Waterman disputed Carranza’s claims.
“It is undisputed that (Carranza) did not see or have knowledge that the subject photo was in her immediate workplace, that no one shared the subject photo with her in her immediate workplace and that she was not directly subjected to any harassing conduct — not even gawking — in her workplace,” Waterman wrote.
“She has presented no evidence that her direct work environment was permeated by abusive sexual harassment.”