A 67-year-old Los Angeles police lieutenant was unlawfully denied promotions to the rank of captain because of his age, his attorney told a jury Friday, but a lawyer for the city denied the veteran lawman was a victim of disparate treatment.
The attorneys gave their views of why Lt. John Cook II has not been elevated beyond his current rank during opening statements in trial of his age discrimination suit in Los Angeles Superior Court.
Lawyer Gregory W. Smith, on Cook’s behalf, told jurors there are currently no LAPD captains older than age 60. He said the LAPD command staff wants younger captains because they are on call 24 hours a day, so when Cook put his name forward twice within the last five years he was denied a promotion because of his age and the jobs were given to other candidates.
“That’s illegal,” Smith said.
Smith said Cook also was wrongly viewed as being anti-management and having poor leadership skills. Cook is a Vietnam veteran who led a rifle company in the Marine Corp. and has repeatedly shown he can guide men in his current role as head of the Northeast Division Gang Impact Team, Smith said.
Smith said Cook joined the LAPD at age 38 in 1987 after an earlier stint with the Pasadena Police Department.
But Deputy City Attorney Jenna Galas said the skills sought in a captain are different from those of a lieutenant. She said Cook is paid $150,000 a year and his rank is in the LAPD’s top three percent.
“The department has never shied away from promoting people,” Galas said.
Cook, the trial’s opening witness, said he believes a supervisor’s antagonism toward him played a role in his being denied a promotion.
“I think he treated me unfairly,” Cook said. “I thought he was a vindictive individual.”
In contrast, Cook said, another supervisor praised him for his work. Smith used a large screen to show jurors images of memos in which Cook was lauded for his work in improving morale in his anti-gang unit
“Leadership means being able to encourage people who work for you to improve their performance,” Cook said. “I think I’ve been required to do that many times in my career.”
Other memo showed being given credit for his work in helping to make Dodger Stadium safer the year after the Bryan Stow beating incident and for his assistance to the department in dealing with the Occupy LA movement.
— City News Service