LOS ANGELES (CNS) — Two front desk officers at the Los Angeles Police Department’s Van Nuys division have sued the city, alleging disability discrimination and retaliation, and their court papers specifically criticize a captain who has accused the department of intentionally skewing crime rates by misclassifying violent crimes.
The two plaintiffs in the Los Angeles Superior Court lawsuits filed Monday, Nov. 20, are Officers Adam Hollands and Blanca Avila. Their suits name as defendants the city of Los Angeles and the LAPD.
Capt. Lillian Carranza is not a defendant, but the lawsuit alleges she brought with her a reputation when she arrived as the area commanding officer in Van Nuys in March 2015.
“Carranza is well-known for negatively viewing personnel with medical restrictions and limited work capabilities, engaging in disparate treatment of these disabled employees, leading to discrimination of such personnel,” the suits allege.
A spokesman for the City Attorney’s Office could not be immediately reached.
Carranza recently made headlines when she filed a claim against the city contending that she told her bosses in 2014 about the underreporting of crime in the Foothill area, which includes Pacoima, Sunland and Tujunga, but nothing was done to correct the problem.
Hollands and Avila claim in their lawsuits that they worked the front desk during the day at Van Nuys, one of the LAPD’s busiest stations. Their jobs include assisting people who come to the station in person, managing telephone calls and writing related reports, the suit states.
Avila and Hollands were assigned to light duty after suffering back injuries in 2002 and 2005, respectively, the suits state. Both often complained to supervisors that there were not enough resources at the front desk to assist them in meeting the community’s needs, according to the complaints. Registered sex offenders reported to the same lobby where residents and their children waited to have their concerns heard, the suit states.
“Such complaints fell on the deaf ears of (the) chain of command,” Avila’s suit states.
Avila often worked 12-hour shifts and avoided drinking water so she would not have to leave the front desk to use the restroom, her suit states.
In December 2014, the officers asked for an automated interface system that would screen and route calls to the appropriate personnel so they could give their attention to walk-in visitors who often waited hours for assistance, the suits state. The request was denied, according to Avila’s suit.
In April 2014, Van Nuys supervisors removed a shotgun that was previously available under the front desk after two desk officers at another division were involved in a shooting with a person who walked in and opened fire, the suit states. The action forced Hollands to wear his bullet-proof vest and gun belt in violation of his work restrictions, his suit states.
Hollands was placed on administrative leave in July pending a Board of Rights hearing in two personnel complaints filed against him, his lawsuit states. Both complaints were “signed off by Carranza,” who told Hollands in September that Chief Charlie Beck had reduced the discipline to a 10-day suspension, Hollands’ complaint states.
Hollands also maintains he was stripped of his handgun and badge.
Avila maintains her badge and weapon also were taken away in retaliation for calling Beck’s secretary to complain about, among other things, the problems of working at the front desk at Van Nuys. Avila tried to meet with Carranza in January 2016 to ask why her police powers were taken away, but the captain “refused to keep her scheduled meeting with plaintiff” and told her to talk to another captain, Avila’s suit states.
Avila filed a complaint against Beck, Carranza and the other captain in February 2016, but 10 months later the department deemed her allegations to be “unfounded,” Avila’s suit states.
Avila was suspended for 10 days for allegedly not complying with department regulations and transferred to the North Hollywood station, her lawsuit states. Avila believes Carranza’s secretary wrote an email to a North Hollywood station secretary “stating that a problem child was coming there,” Avila’s suit states.
In April 2016, a jury awarded $2.1 million to former Los Angeles police Detective Maria Elena Montoya of Diamond Bar after finding she was retaliated against when she complained about the way her supervisors treated her for taking time off to deal with an injury.
While on vacation in November 2011, Montoya had a severe recurrence of a prior back injury she suffered while on duty, according to her attorneys. Carranza, then a lieutenant at the Newton Division, told a captain she was concerned about Montoya’s use of sick days and time taken off for being injured at work, Montoya’s court papers stated.
Montoya, an 18-year LAPD veteran who had been investigating juvenile sex crimes, was reassigned by Carranza to handle burglary cases, considered a less prestigious assignment than her previous work, according to Montoya’s court papers.