Another former UC Davis Police officer has filed a lawsuit against the department, alleging sexual harassment and racial discrimination.
Chithien Le, 28, is the second person of Asian descent to file a suit against the department this year. The suit seeks unspecified damages for loss of income, benefits and attorney’s fees.
Le claims that he was the target of “insensitive remarks, stereotypical comments, ridicule and/or crude and crass ethnic jokes and racial epithets,” according to a copy of the suit obtained by The California Aggie.
Le is the second Asian ex-officer to file a suit against the university this year. Le’s suit comes a month after Calvin Chang filed a lawsuit for racial and sexual orientation discrimination, retaliation, fraud and breach of contract. Chang, who originally sued the university last year, claims the university violated the terms of the first suit’s settlement.
Le’s suit, filed with Sacramento County Superior Court, names the regents, UC Davis Police Chief Annette Spicuzza and several other UC Davis Police officers.
Le did not respond to several phone messages for comment. The UC Davis Police Department directed inquiries to UC Davis spokesperson Julia Ann Easley, who said the university could not comment because it had not yet been served with the lawsuit.
The suit charges that the department failed to respond to Le’s complaints that he was being harassed. In one instance, the suit alleges, several officers logged onto Le’s computer and changed the desktop wallpaper to pictures of gay pornography.
The suit specifically names officers Rob Stoleo, Shawn Bowers and Danny Sheffield as the harassers. All three remained employed by UCDPD. The officers did not respond to a request for comment.
Several officers referred to Le as “the next Calvin Chang,” who is openly gay, the suit states. Le had spoken in defense of Chang, who was also subject to similar treatment, according to the suit. In retaliation, the department allegedly changed Le’s shifts and posted derogatory pictures of him on public bulletin boards, the suit states.
In a phone interview, Chang said he witnessed officers putting a “belittling“ picture of Le on a wall clock.
Chang said the UC Davis Police Department has a culture of “very old attitudes and the good old boys network.” Although Chang believes sexual orientation discrimination is not uncommon in law enforcement agencies, the problem is especially severe at UC Davis, where many officers do not share Davis‘ progressive attitude, he said.
“The officers come from very rural areas of California,” said Chang, who is openly gay. “The university structure always sides against the person who makes the complaint.“
Le was employed by the UC Davis Police for four years, from March 2004 to March 2008. After his first year of service, he was recognized for outstanding service and was one of four officers to be nominated for police officer of the year, the suit states.
But after suffering a hand injury in March 2006, Le claims his fortunes changed. The suit alleges that the department did not recognize the extent of Le’s injury and ordered him to participate in a mandatory training exercise against the orders of a physician. Le claims he complied, fearing retaliation.
In June 2007, Le was placed on paid administrative leave after he and another officer had to physically restrain a suspect who was resisting arrest, the suit states. Le was written up for provoking the suspect and was stripped of his badge, gun and identification card.
Le successfully appealed the removal of his police power in November 2007. The following month, he underwent surgery relating to his hand injury. In February 2008, he received notice from the department that he would be terminated.
Le himself was the target of racial discrimination allegations during his tenure with the UCD Police Department. In 2004, a black UC Davis graduate student filed a complaint with the department after a bicycle stop on campus. The student reported that Le asked him “whether he had a criminal record or any tattoos on his body, and whether he had ever lived in Oakland.” The complaint resulted in an internal investigation.
PATRICK McCARTNEY can be reached at email@example.com.