A Long Beach police officer who said he was subjected to a backlash in 2015 when he protested how management responded to complaints by a recruit who did not want to train in an unsafe area was awarded $2.5 million in damages today.
A Los Angeles Superior Court jury deliberated for less than a day before finding in favor of 28-year veteran Alex Lawrence, who struggled to maintain his emotions and as he heard the verdict and later when thanking jurors.
“I dedicated my whole life to the Long Beach Police Department,” 48-year-old Lawrence said. “Every witness who came in and testified for the city contradicted themselves.”
Lawrence said he once supervised a large group of officers and had his own office, computer and cell phone. Today, he said, he is on patrol duty—the same task he was assigned when he joined the LBPD.
Although he is a dues-paying member of the Long Beach Police Officers’ Association, even that organization failed to assist him in his case against the city, Lawrence said.
Deputy Long Beach City Attorney Nicholas Masero said his office will evaluate the case and decide on how to proceed, including whether to appeal the verdict. In his closing argument Wednesday, Masero said the case boiled down to different people having dissimilar recollections of the events leading up to Alexander suing the department in April 2016.
Lawrence was a field training officer coordinator responsible for ensuring that the Long Beach Police Department complied with generally accepted Commission on Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST) procedures.
According to his lawsuit, a recruit reported for his first day of duty with the department in November 2015, then called a sergeant the next day saying he was too afraid to work in a high-crime area and preferred to resign.
A deputy chief directed the sergeant to offer the recruit an assignment in a safer area in lieu of resigning, the suit states. Lawrence protested that the offer to the recruit violated POST regulations, according to his suit.
The recruit accepted the offer, but the deputy chief later rescinded it and the recruit resigned, the suit states.
Lawrence maintains he was summoned to the deputy chief’s office and told to go back to patrol or find another job. He alleges the department’s denial of a promotion in 2016 to a coveted position for which he was most qualified was done in further retaliation. Lawrence said the recruit was “man enough” to decide that being a police officer was not for him, but that management was concerned about the department’s attrition rate and the deputy chief’s reaction was to move him to another part of the city.
Both the deputy chief and the sergeant are now retired, Lawrence said.
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