LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — An African-American Los Angeles police captain is filing a lawsuit against the city, alleging that he was denied promotions due to the fact that he did not conform with what he claims is Chief Charlie Beck's belief that all officers sent to Board of Rights hearings should be fired.
Capt. Byford (Peter) Whittingham also alleges in the suit that only three black captains have been promoted to elevated captain ranks with higher pay out of 58 such promotions Beck has granted since he became head of the department in November of 2009.
The "whistleblower" suit also alleges retaliation and discrimination. Whittingham is seeking unspecified damages.
A spokeswoman for the LAPD said the department does not comment on litigation.
According to the lawsuit, Whittingham serves on Board of Rights hearings at times, which determines whether or not officers should be handed discipline for an alleged misconduct.
During an LAPD meeting, which included personnel of the rank of captain or higher, one deputy chief — with Beck present — "told all command staff that when the chief sends an officer to a Board of Rights (hearing), he expects that officer to be terminated and the commanding officers sitting on the Board of Rights do not have the authority to do anything different."
Whittingham claims that he sat on one such Board of Rights hearing in August 2012, in which he believed that information existed to exonerate an accused officer. He wanted to dismiss the case, based on an opinion from the City Attorney's office.
"However, Chief Beck overruled plaintiff's decision and the Board of Rights (hearing) was ordered to proceed," according to the suit.
At the end of the hearing, Whittingham says he voted to suspend, rather than fire the officer.
In a separate occasion, Whittingham testified favorably during an administrative hearing on behalf of a black officer who had alleged he was subjected to racist conduct by a captain. Prior to the hearing, the captain is reported to have called Whittingham a "traitor" and allegedly used epithets in her remarks, the suit says.
Additionally, the complaint states that Whittingham was told by a deputy chief that Beck considers the conclusions of captains sitting on Board of Rights hearings in the decision over whether their positions should be upgraded.
Whittingham believes the comment was in direct reference to the instances in which his opinions regarding officer misconduct allegations during Board of Rights hearings did not coincide with Beck's, the complaint says.
Whittingham says he also is under the belief that his decision to stand up for the rights of black officers as an active member of the Oscar Joe Bryant organization, which was named for a black LAPD officer killed in action in 1968, has also been held against him within the LAPD chain of command.
Whittingham attained the rank of Captain I in May 2009, and became eligible for a paygrade advancement in May 2010, according to the suit.
"Of the 35 captains who were promoted after the plaintiff and who were later upgraded in rank during the period between August 2010 and January 2014, only one was black," the lawsuit says.
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