Burbank Police officer Angelo Dahlia was trying to be a good honest LEO, and when he witnessed fellow officers beat up and abuse arrested people, he tried to do the right thing and made an official complaint.
Each time detectives interrogated him regarding what he witnessed, fellow officers seemed to be informed of what he said to the detectives in the interviews. They would retaliate by intimidating him.
Even worse, he lost his job because he dared complain.
Burbank Police officer Angelo Dahlia made official complaints that witnessed a PD thug detective squeeze a suspect’s throat and stick a gun in his face, shouting, “How does it feel to have a gun in your face, motherfucker?”
LEO Dahlia said he heard yelling and the sound of people being hit as the detective continued to interview suspects.
He said he told Burbank Police Lt. John Murphy that “things were getting out of hand, the interviews were getting too physical, and too many people were doing their own thing and were out of control.”
Murphy allegedly told Dahlia to “stop his sniveling.”
Dahlia said the beatings continued and he saw detectives don fingerless gloves with carbon or hard plastic knuckles while preparing to execute search warrants, saying they hoped to hit somebody.
An internal investigation was launched in April 2008, and Dahlia complained that his colleagues and superiors tried to threaten and intimidate him to keep him quiet, calling whistleblowers “spineless pussies.”
Dahlia was interviewed by investigators at least three times.
After each interview, Dahlia said he was harassed and threatened.
In May 2009, the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department interviewed Dahlia, who said he disclosed his colleagues’ abusive interrogation tactics.
Four days later, Burbank Police Chief Tim Stehr placed Dahlia on administrative leave.
Dahlia sued the city of Burbank and several officers, claiming the disciplinary action constituted retaliation for his protected speech.
Recently, a federal appeals court upheld a lower court’s dismissal of a First Amendment lawsuit filed by Dahlia.
The decision turned on a 2009 ruling by another panel of the same court, the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.
In essence, these courts condones retaliation against whistle-blowers and forget their duty to render “just” lawful opinions.
There will come a day soon when the injustice system is cleaned up and held accountable and transparent.
A report from the Los Angeles Daily News says:
On appeal, the three-judge panel said it could not overturn a previous holding by a panel of the same court. But it used unusually strong language in criticizing fellow judges.
“The reasoning in Huppert that professional duties can be determined as a matter of law is wrong, and the result that reports of police misconduct are not protected by the First Amendment is dangerous,” Judge Kim McLane Wardlaw wrote for the unanimous panel.
The judges said the result “chills the speech of potential whistle-blowers in a culture that is already protective of its own.”
The First Amendment question is key, since the government may not stifle the speech of someone speaking as a private citizen, even if that person also is a government employee.
The appellate judges said a lawsuit like Dahlia’s should move forward until it’s determined whether the officer was speaking in his official capacity or as a private citizen.
Instead, the court said, the result is “that the act of whistleblowing is itself a professional duty of police officers, thus stripping such speech of the First Amendment’s protection.”
That logic applies only in the Ninth Circuit, which covers California and seven other western states.
Editor’s Note: Logic does not change due to arbitrary political boundaries.
Burbank City Attorney Amy Albano said Tuesday’s ruling applies only to a “limited circumstance” and police officers have other protections against being disciplined or fired for reporting misconduct. A lawsuit Dahlia filed in state court is still pending.
“The real facts of the case never came out,” Albano said. “This case doesn’t tell you why was he placed on administrative leave.”
She declined to elaborate.
Since 2009, Burbank has faced state and federal lawsuits by a dozen current or former Police Department employees, including the two by Dahlia. Most stemmed from the same scandal, which led to an outside investigation by the L.A. County Sheriff’s Department.
The suits have claimed discrimination, harassment, retaliation and wrongful termination.
The city has prevailed in five cases, either winning at trial or getting them tossed. Plaintiffs won in two, with juries awarding one plaintiff $1.29 million and another $150,000. Other cases are pending.