A Long Beach police detective appeared in court earlier this week after filing suit against the City of Long Beach, alleging gender discrimination and bias.
Attorneys for the plaintiff and defense stated their case during the trial’s opening statements.
In the suit, Wendy Starbird, a 19-year-veteran of the Long Beach Police Department (LBPD) whose father flew choppers for the department, alleges she was twice denied positions as a helicopter pilot; the first time because of her gender and the second because she filed a lawsuit against the city.
“Her filing this lawsuit was not a simple thing for her to do,” Starbird’s attorney Gregory W. Smith told the Los Angeles Superior Court jury. “She comes from a law enforcement family.”
Deputy City Attorney Haleh Jenkins, said Starbird’s case was unfounded, stating she had not fully proved herself in previous positions and made little effort in re-applying to the job after failing to secure the position the first time. Meanwhile, Jenkins said the only action Starbird made in re-applying was forwarding her resume in 2015.
Smith opened the trial stating that Starbird joined the LBPD in 1997 and was promoted to detective in 2002. She served in a number of ancillary duties, including working as an AR-15 rifle instructor, driving a tactical armored vehicle and being a hostage negotiator. Currently, she protects Mayor Robert Garcia as part of her duties, according to Smith.
In 2014, Starbird applied to a helicopter pilot job after working as a tactical flight officer, assisting helicopter pilots in the air by operating the spotlight and tracking suspect vehicles. When she did not receive the position (which instead went to a male applicant), Starbird’s supervisors told her she had frozen during a mock scenario staged during emergency medical training, which was conducted to assess her decision-making skills under duress.
However, Smith alleged no other candidates were subject to the same level of scrutiny.
Jenkins said Starbird was a solid employee with an “exceptional” career, but had weakened her chances of obtaining a job by leaving established positions.
“She literally quit every ancillary position,” Jenkins said. “Instead of proving that she was worthy, she did the opposite.” He followed by stating her 2015 application consisted of simply forwarding her resume.
The air-support unit consists of about six members in a department of about 800, according to Jenkins.
City News Service contributed to this report.