By Mary O’KEEFE
City of Glendale has prevailed in a lawsuit brought against it by a Glendale police officer.
Lt. Tigran Topadzhikyan is one of five Armenian American GPD officers who filed a lawsuit against the city in 2010. They alleged discrimination, retaliation and harassment.
The jurors deliberated about an hour before finding in favor of the city. Michael Garcia, Glendale city attorney, said the fact the jury decided so quickly indicated to him that the evidence was clear.
Topadzhikyan with four other officers filed a joint lawsuit. The other officers are awaiting their trial. The complaints included discrimination relating to not receiving a promotion, a termination and a transfer allegedly in retaliation for Topadzhikyan voicing his concerns, Garcia said.
“It is my opinion that Topadzhikyan has been treated extremely well and after hearing the evidence I believe the jury agreed,” said Chief Ron DePompa.
Throughout DePompa’s tenure – the last five years – the department has increased its hiring of women and ethnic minorities by about 60%, DePompa said.
In 1999, GPD had five Armenian American officers; in 2010 that was increased to 15 and in 2013 it now has 21 officers, according to Sgt. Tom Lorenz.
The city has also created a program for the recruitment of Armenian and Korean speaking officers.
There is a procedure in place for those in the department who feel they are discriminated against, Garcia said.
“We have a policy to investigate those complaints,” Garcia said. The complaints are investigated internally as well as investigators outside the department being used, he said.
Garcia said in these cases there were either no complaints logged or, if complaints were made, they were dealt with. To hold the city liable, the officer would have to prove that complaints were ignored.
Garcia and DePompa addressed one of the complaints made by the officer who alleged being overlooked for promotions. Garcia explained the process for promotion used to involve a review of the applicant by a panel of Glendale officers.
“Now it is broader than that,” he said. “The panels [consist] of officers [and others] outside Glendale.”
The panels comprise stakeholders in the community, managers from various city departments in Glendale and ranking officers from both inside and outside the GPD. Sergeant tests would have those with the rank of lieutenant and above, lieutenants would have those of a captain ranking and above, Lorenz stated as examples.
Not all of those who apply pass the tests.
“It is not an automatic passing rate,” DePompa said.
The exam-passing rate is about 50 to 70%, he said.
“That gets [officers] on the eligibility list but not guaranteed a position,” he said. “You may end up on the eligibility list with as many as 20 [officers] but only have a handful [of positions available].”
Since he filed the lawsuit, Topadzhikyan has been promoted to lieutenant and is assigned as an area commander.