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Monday, February 02, 2009

Former Officer Files Suit Against UC Davis Charging Racial and Sexual Orientation Discrimination

Former UC Davis Police Officer Calvin Chang has filed a lawsuit against the UC Regents and UC Davis Police Chief Annette Spicuzza alleging complaints of racial and sexual orientation discrimination, housing discrimination, and retaliation.

In the lawsuit, Officer Chang, who is openly gay, alleges that he was subject to harassment including homophobic slurs and a death threat while serving as a police officer for the UC Davis Police Department.

Officer Chang was at the time of his hire the only Asian-American officer on the campus and the first openly gay officer. According to the complaint:
“During the relevant times, Plaintiff was subjected to a pattern of harassment and discrimination because of his race and sexual orientation, including but not limited to the following: a racial slur broadcasted to Plaintiff over the police radio by his supervisor, superiors referred to Plaintiff as "Mr. Chang" instead of by his earned title of "Officer Chang," repeatedly referred to by the name of the agency's previous Asian-American officer, denied timely backup, subjected to a derogatory slur ("fag") by a probationary police officer (whom Regents passed on probation) in the presence of his supervisor, offensive homosexual innuendos from a supervisor, referred to as a "****ing fag" by his supervisor (whom Spicuzza promoted and assigned to the "professional standards unit" in command of internal affairs), subjected to numerous false internal affairs investigations.”
In July of 2003, Officer Chang was terminated from the UC Davis Police Department. By September 2003, he filed complaints of discrimination and harassment in connection with his termination.
“After Plaintiff's mistreatment and termination was reported in the news media beginning on or about October 29, 2003, Regents ordered Plaintiff summarily reinstated on October 31, 2003 and agreed with the DFEH [Department of Fair Employment and Housing] to provide all sworn staff with discrimination prevention training. As of Plaintiff's last termination in 2008, despite repeated reassurances, Regents have failed to provide agreed upon training.”
The suit alleges that the
“Defendants initiated, directed, encouraged, and subjecting Plaintiff to a malicious, severe, and unrelenting pattern of retaliation.”
These complaints included an alleged death threat. However according to a press release:
“UC Davis Police Chief Annette Spicuzza concluded she ‘could not identify’ which officer wrote the threat, even though the threat was written in the officer’s own handwriting.”
Moreover, Officer Chang alleges that in response to a complaint about discrimination, Chief Spicuzza stated to Officer Chang, “Why don’t you leave?”

The suit alleges a long list of various incidents of harassment and retaliations including a punitive transfer, failure to properly protect Officer Chang, and soliciting complaints against Officer Chang. Officer Chang claims that the Police Chief initiated several “malicious and false” internal affairs investigations against the Officer.

According to the press release by attorney Anthony Luti representing Officer Calvin Chang:
“These actions culminated in a lawsuit filed [today]… Chang alleges that in 2008, he was unlawfully terminated for the second time, after the UC Davis Police Department fabricated an internal affairs alleging that he “failed to have a backup officer” when he searched a laundry room at the Segundo Residence Hall. Chang’s lawsuit alleges that Spicuzza intentionally misrepresented that the internal affairs investigation had “no finding.” However, UC Davis concealed and intentionally misrepresented that it had sustained the allegation and then falsely and maliciously reported that he had resigned as a result of the internal affairs complaint.”
UC Davis has also attempted retaliation, according to the plaintiff, by
“unlawfully threatening [to] take his home of ten years—located in Aggie Village on the UC Davis campus. As a result of a complaint Chang filed with the CA Department of Fair Employment and Housing, the University agreed that it would cease any further actions, again choosing to explain its actions as based on “miscommunication.”
Furthermore, the plaintiff reports:
“In a letter responding to Chang’s complaint, [UC Davis Chancellor Larry] Vanderhoef described the University’s action as “a result of administrative error” and that there was no “evidence that these actions were intended to be retaliatory.”
Officer Calvin Chang is seeking a reinstatement of his position and general damages for the loss of his career and public safety pension valued at over $3 million. Moreover he is also seeking damages for emotional distress and punitive damages against Chief Spicuzza for failure to prevent harassment, fraud, and conspiracy to commit fraud.

The Vanguard at time of publication has not had an opportunity to speak to UC Davis, however, will follow up if when there is an official response.

In the fall of 2007, the Vanguard received an anonymous mailing through the US Postal service depicting a series of complaints against Chief Spicuzza, Captain Joyce Souza, and now former Captain Leslie Brown. That was followed up in the spring of 2008 with an anonymous email detailing further events and abuses. Both of these communications appear to have merit and the Vanguard has been conducting a long investigation of the UC Davis Police Department and the upper management. As a result, the Vanguard has discovered reason to believe that Officer Chang’s complaint is not an isolated incident but rather part of a long and sustained pattern of alleged discrimination, retaliation, and abuse. The Vanguard will be following up on these allegations and will have a full report in the future.

---David M. Greenwald reporting