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City News Service

A Los Angeles police officer who alleged he was retaliated against for reporting racial remarks and theft by a supervisor was awarded $3.12 million today by a jury.
Robert Hill, 48, who is white, claimed he was transferred to another station and given an inferior work assignment because he told supervisors in 2004 that Newton Division Sgt. Gilbert Curtis was making racist statements about blacks and Latinos and had taken money from the Explorer fund, a police ride-along program for teenagers.
The Los Angeles Superior Court panel of seven men and five women deliberated about 3 1/2 hours Friday and today before reaching their decision. The award consisted of $3 million in non-economic damages for emotional distress, and $127,000 in economic damages for past and future lost wages.
As he heard the verdict, Hill leaned back in his chair, then turned to the panel in the jury box, and said, "Thank you guys very much."
Most of the jurors smiled back at Hill.
The officer sued the city in January 2007. He testified he had a good rapport with the community and helped reduce crime when he was working at the Newton Division, but that after he talked to supervisors about Curtis, he was transferred to the Northeast Division and given inferior assignments.
The transfer also has cost Hill a significant amount of money that he otherwise would have earned in overtime, his lawyer, Gregory W. Smith, said during closing arguments Friday.
"You're not supposed to transfer someone when they report things," Smith said.
Smith told jurors that Hill was sent home and stripped of his badge and gun while an internal affairs investigation into the confrontation took place. Hill was ultimately cleared after a Board of Rights hearing.
Hill was diagnosed with depression and at one point considered suicide, Smith said.
Smith said after the verdict that he was pleased jurors "saw through the smokescreen" put up by defense attorneys. He also said he hoped it would bring about real reform in LAPD management to prevent further such abuses of officers who step forward to report misconduct.
Hill said that before the trial he implored a long list of people from his supervisors to Chief William Bratton to enact measures to prevent a repeat of what happened to him and to other officers. Those requests were ignored and the jury's verdict is the result, he said.
Hill, a 25-year LAPD veteran, said he originally wanted to work until he reached his 30th anniversary with the department, but has abandoned those plans and in all likelihood will retire sooner.
A trial witness called on Hill's behalf, Marisabel Gonzalez, told jurors that she wanted Hill to attend a memorial ceremony for slain police in Washington, D.C., after her fiance, LAPD Officer Landon Dorris, was fatally struck by a car on Oct. 22, 2006.
She said an LAPD supervisor told her Hill could not go to the ceremony because Bratton did not believe he was a positive representative for the department.
Deputy City Attorney Richard Loomis declined to comment on the verdict. But he told told jurors during his closing argument that it was necessary to send Hill to another station because he and Curtis were not getting along at the Newton Division.
Had the LAPD really wanted to retaliate against Hill, they would have sent him to either the Harbor or Pacific divisions, which are much farther from where he lives, Loomis said.
Hill is angry that the LAPD has not found any malfeasance on Curtis' part and punished him, Loomis said.
However, Loomis and Deputy City Attorney Jorge Otano, his co-counsel, shook hands with Hill outside the courtroom after the verdict.
Curtis, who denies any of the wrongdoing alleged by Hill, testified that the officer helped decrease crime while working in the Newton Division.
Curtis also said he believed Hill wanted to kill him during a February 2005 confrontation. Hill maintains that during that confrontation, Curtis called him a "rat" for complaining about him.

Story From: City News Service
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