Friday, September 5, 2014

L.A. Police Officers Awarded $1 Million In Lawsuit Against LAPD

After an almost two-year long legal battle, a Los Angeles Superior Court jury on Wednesday found that the Los Angeles Police Department retaliated against two of its officers for reporting allegations of misconduct within their unit.

Attorney Gregory Smith, who represented the plaintiffs, said he deals with a lot of cases against the LAPD and sees a lot of suspicious activities, which provides him with plenty of work.

Between 2007 and 2012, former Det. Juan Baello and former Lt. Loren Farell supervised the department’s Valley Financial Section, which investigates financial and identify-theft crimes.

Smith said Baello made the initial discovery of a backlog of cases that were left incomplete. Baello brought the attention to Farell, who launched an internal investigation into the unit’s files.

For three days, Baello poured through records and found the unit was 90 percent behind on its due diligence, which means detectives weren’t locating suspects and cases were going stale.

According to court documents, Smith called Farell and Baello’s subordinates “lazy individuals who cheated on their time records and spent more time chatting and doing nothing in their official duties.”

Smith said that after Farell and Baello reported the alleged misconduct to several department heads including Capt. Bill Williams, Deputy Chief Kirk Albanese reassigned the two to positions located far from their San Fernando Valley homes, an act known in the department as “freeway therapy.”

However, the LAPD’s attorneys insisted that the department did not act out against Farell and Baelo but transferred them for legitimate purposes.

Smith said one of those legitimate purposes included complaints from the detectives who claimed Farell and Baello were creating a hostile work environment. He added that the department also didn’t want to remove any detective for fear that a lawsuit would be filed.

Farell, who was an officer on duty during the 1997 North Hollywood Bank Robbery, worked out of the detective bureau in Downtown Los Angeles between March and June of 2012 while Baello worked in West L.A.

Smith said the two veteran lawmen began experiencing heart palpitations as a result of the stress caused by their “freeway therapy” and both decided to retire early.

The pair contacted Smith prior to their retirement and filed the lawsuit in late 2012.

Smith said the detectives who worked under Baello and Farell are still there today and also admitted that despite a lack of resources and manpower, the section has gotten caught up with its cases.

Baello and Farell were awarded $723,000 and $308,000 respectively.

Smith said he was unsure if the city would appeal the court’s decision but added that it’s typical for attorneys to do so.

Reach the reporter on Twitter @ShawnFVRaymundo