LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — Two retired Los Angeles police officers, including one who survived a hail of gunfire in the 1997 North Hollywood bank robbery shootout, were awarded more than $1 million by jurors who found the former lawmen were retaliated against for reporting alleged misconduct within their unit.
A jury returned the verdict Wednesday in favor of former Lt. Loren Farell and ex-Detective Juan Baello, who were awarded $308,000 and $723,500, respectively.
Farell and Baello worked as supervisors in the LAPD's Valley Financial Section, which investigated financial crimes, identity theft and similar wrongdoing. Farell supervised the entire unit and Baello was a lead detective.
Plaintiff's attorney Gregory W. Smith said Farell had determined his detectives were not complying with "due diligence" rules required under the 6th Amendment governing the timely service of arrest warrants. The rules had to be followed to assure that suspects were prosecuted in a timely manner.
"These subordinates were generally lazy individuals who cheated on their time records and spent more time chatting and doing nothing in their official duties," Smith said in court papers.
Farell and Baello reported the alleged misconduct to their commanders. But instead of being praised for their work, they were transferred to inferior positions far from their homes in what is sarcastically known as "freeway therapy," according to Smith, then forced into early retirement.
A possible motive for Farell and Baello's transfers may have been that their commanders were embarrassed by the plaintiffs' revelations about their unit.
Attorneys for the city maintained the plaintiffs could not show a connection between their disclosures and any negative employment actions against them. The city lawyers also argued that Baello and Farell were transferred for legitimate, non-discriminatory reasons.
Farell was a nine-year veteran when he and his then-partner, Officer Martin Perello, made the initial observation of the Feb. 28, 1997, holdup at the North Hollywood branch of the Bank of America.
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