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Davis, California

Wednesday, October 20, 2021

Former UC Davis officer files $3 million lawsuit against police

In Feb. 2009, Calvin Chang, a former UC Davis police officer, filed a $3 million lawsuit against the UC Davis Police Department alleging discrimination, breach of contract, violation of peace officers bill of rights, fraud and retaliation.

As of Jan. 25, the Sacramento Superior Court ruled that the lawsuit could go forward. However, the Labor Code §1050 – publishing misrepresentations against a former employer – was dismissed, as were claims for fraud due to litigation privilege, a legal technicality.

In addition to the lawsuit against UCDPD, Chang filed a lawsuit against UC Davis Police Chief Annette Spicuzza for intentional infliction of emotional distress for trying to get Chang evicted after the settlement, Chang said.

Chang, an openly gay Asian American, began working for the UCDPD in 2002.

“I wanted to work for my alma mater,” he said. “I moved from the City of Davis Police Department to the UCDPD because it was my dream job.”

Soon after the police department found out Chang was gay, he became a victim of harassment regarding his sexual orientation, Chang said.

“I actually wasn’t the first one to make the first discrimination complaint,” he said. “My field training officer complained on my behalf when a sergeant referred to me as a ‘fucking fag.’ The university’s official report said that the individual’s conduct did not violate university policy because it was not severe or pervasive.”

Claudia Morain, a UC Davis spokesperson, said that the university’s process for discrimination complaints involves a review of the facts. The university then takes immediate and appropriate action based on those facts, she said.

Due to the ongoing lawsuit, the university cannot discuss specific details about the case, Morain said.

Chang was terminated at the end of his probationary period in July 2003. He then filed a discrimination complaint against the UCDPD in connection with his termination.

In Oct. 2003, Chang was reinstated, but the harassment and discrimination continued, Chang said. Internal Affairs launched an investigation his first day back and his personal file was jammed with various documents.

In 2005, Chang filed a lawsuit against the UC Board of Regents based on the first termination. In a settlement agreement after the lawsuit in Jan. 2008, Chang received $240,000, but was required to resign from the UCDPD.

As a part of the settlement, Chang was allowed to keep his Aggie Village home. But immediately after the settlement, Spicuzza demanded that the real estate services evict Chang from his house, even though she was present during the settlement discussion, Chang said.

The settlement was then breached and Chang filed the current lawsuit against UCDPD, in addition to a lawsuit against Spicuzza.

Chang is exercising his right to pursue legal actions, Spicuzza said in a statement.

“People have a right to do what they feel they need to do and [the UCDPD] will do what we think is right. We’ll just have to see how it will all play out in the courts,” Spicuzza said.

Since the initial filing of the lawsuit, UC Davis has filed over 100 attempts to get the employment and housing claims dismissed, Chang said.

“The university filed all these actions to try to get this part or that part of the lawsuit dismissed, but basically we have the same five discrimination claims that we started with,” he said. “We’re hoping that we can move forward toward the trial now.”

The five discrimination causes of actions include race, sexual orientation, housing, failure to prevent discrimination and retaliation for making a discrimination complaint.

Right now the case is still in depositions, but will probably go to trial within the year, Chang said.

“Much of [Chang’s] lawsuit against UC Davis has already been dismissed by the court and UC Davis is confident that the university will prevail under the remainder of the lawsuit,” Morain said in a statement on the behalf of the university.

However, the pending lawsuit has had some external consequences for UC Davis.

“The queer community at Davis is relatively safe, but there are instances where someone from the community will need to rely on help from the UCDPD,” said Justin Lock, a UC Davis graduate and former president of the UC Davis Asian and Pacific-Islander Queers. “Knowing that there are pending lawsuits regarding sexuality makes it very hard for someone from the queer community to want to trust or seek help from the police department.”

Despite the lawsuit, Chang still desires to work for his alma mater.

“Chang just wants to continue to be a police officer and serve the community he came from. It’s not like he’s a bad person or that he did anything wrong,” Lock said. “To be pushed out of the community like that is something nobody should have to go through.”

MICHELLE MURPHY can be reached at campus@theaggie.org.

2 COMMENTS

  1. I think it’s interesting how the university conceives of an appropriate P.R. response “we are confident we will prevail under the remainder of the lawsuit”, as if the fact that you can create a hostile work environment and get away with it is something one should be proud of.

  2. Thank you for writing this piece Michelle. This is a very important issue, and it shouldn’t be swept under the carpet.

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