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Pasadena police officer sues department for racial discrimination

Pasadena police officer suing department over alleged racial discrimination
Pasadena police officer suing department over alleged racial discrimination 02:09

A Pasadena police officer filed a lawsuit against her department Thursday, alleging that she was subjected to racial discrimination and retaliated against. 

The lawsuit stems from an incident earlier in the year where Officer Taisyn Crutchfield stepped in to de-escalate a tense situation between a fellow officer and suspect.

Taisyn Crutchfield. Tony Crutchfield

"The Pasadena Police Department (PPD) has a history of racial discrimination, racial profiling, disparities of punishment of African American employees and retaliation against that officer who are whistleblowers or complain about discrimination, harassment, and retaliation," a press release from Crutchfield's attorney said. "Crutchfield is the latest victim."

In the lawsuit, Crutchfield claims that she was punished after stepping into a situation on Feb. 20, when additional officers were called to an argument involving the two sons of Charles Towns, a Black man who was shot and killed by Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department deputies in Altadena in January. 

Crutchfield's attorney said that police were called to the scene when one of Towns' sons, a juvenile, was "understandably upset by the death of their father." While the responding officers were interacting with the teenagers, Crutchfield said that one was thrown face-first into a cactus, causing the situation to escalate and prompting her to step in and attempt to push the other officer away. 

"Officer Taisyn Crutchfield fortunately followed state-wide police training and intervened to de-escalate the situation. Officer Crutchfield deserved a commendation for her swift and heroic action, avoiding needless violence," the release said. "Instead, she was relieved of duty and punished. Our lawsuit is about righting the wrong that Officer Crutchfield has suffered from."

Pasadena Police Department released a series of videos that show the incident on Feb. 20 from inside a patrol car, where a group of officers can be seen huddled around the pair of teens as a third person looks on. Footage shows Crutchfield walking over to another officer, attempting to push him away in what she has called her attempt to de-escalate the situation.

Additional body-worn camera footage was also posted online by PPD, showing the moments where Crutchfield lightly pushes the officer, who immediately says "Don't do that," before the two are separated by a PPD sergeant and sent back to the station.

No arrests were made during the incident and no citizen complaints have been filed, Pasadena police said. 

Crutchfield was placed on paid administrative leave for six months after being sent back to the department, claiming that she was never given any reason for her punishment. On Friday, Crutchfield's family was joined by her attorney Brad Gage at a press conference outside of the Pasadena Police Department. She was not present as she is still an active patrol officer.

"She's doing the right thing, she doesn't believe in a code of silence. She doesn't believe in circling the wagons," Gage said. "She believes in integrity, honesty and safety."

In response to the allegations, the city of Pasadena said it "will vigorously defend itself in this matter and the facts will prevail."

"The Pasadena Police Department proudly serves the residents of Pasadena with honor and integrity, and is proud of its diversity throughout all ranks of the Department," city officials stated.

Crutchfield joined the department in 2021 after receiving her bachelor's and master's degrees in criminology. She also competed in track and won the national championship in the 100-meter dash while also earning the honor of Miss Eugene, Oregon.

She believes that her accomplishments have been overshadowed by her race, subjecting her to discrimination within the department.

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