Gay LAPD Sergeant sues city for job discrimination
Karen Ocamb

When Frontiers interviewed incoming LAPD Chief Charlie Beck in November 2009, one of the first concerns, given Beck’s 32-year career with the LAPD, was about whether he belonged to anti-gay Deputy Chief Mark Kroeker’s “God Squad,” which operated with impunity under Chief Daryl Gates.

Beck seemed startled by the speculation. “I go to church for weddings and funerals,” he said. Later, he explained that he wanted the LAPD to sever ties to the Boy Scouts of America’s Life Explorer program, because “there is no place for groups that practice that kind of discrimination in today’s LAPD.”

Also at that interview was Public Information Director Mary Grady, who had been a top advisor to Chief Bratton. Grady, who was very helpful to Frontiers, is now at the center of a job discrimination case that threatens to resurrect allegations of the Religious Right’s influence within the LAPD and overshadow Beck’s sincere outreach to the LGBT community.

Openly gay Sgt. Ronald Crump is suing the city of Los Angeles, claiming that his boss in Media Relations, Lt. John Romero, created a hostile work environment for gay and lesbian officers. His civil suit outlines a series of incidents over six months in which Crump claims he was regularly harassed and humiliated. For instance, Crump claims in his lawsuit that Romero said, “I was a religion major at Liberty University—Jerry Falwell would roll over in his grave if he knew I hired you.” The suit notes that Fawell founded the conservative religious university—but doesn’t mention that Falwell’s Moral Majority helped launch the anti-gay movement in 1977 with Anita Bryant.

Crump claims that Romero subjected him to “nearly constant harassment on account of his sexual orientation, including introducing Crump to new co-workers as ‘the new Ruby [Crump’s predecessor]—the only difference is that he doesn’t wear heels.’” When Crump told Romero that he didn’t appreciate being referred to as the “new Ruby,” he says Romero told him to “get over it” and “chuckled as he walked away.”

The lawsuit also details comments Romero allegedly made about other gay LAPD employees, calling one a “quirky, effeminate guy,” and saying about another, “She’s a militant, ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ activist lesbian,” among other similar comments.

The lawsuit also reports how in January 2009, a lesbian co-worker “remarked that Lt. Romero made the office environment stressful and that she saw Romero treating Plaintiff and others poorly.” That lesbian left the media relations department one month later, which was closely followed by an inquiry into the concerns about the hostile work environment from then-Assistant Chief McDonnell’s office. McDonnell had an extraordinarily good relationship with the LGBT community.

Crump did a formal exit interview with the departing lesbian and subsequently told Romero that he should be concerned about the hostile work environment. The suit alleges that Romero responded in what Crump perceived to be “career ending terms.”

That’s when Crump complained to Grady, Romero’s boss. After Romero found out about it, the suit alleges that he “screamed at Plaintiff for complaining, and threatened him with making a complaint for ‘rumor mongering’ and stating ‘Don’t forget I hired you even though you’re gay.’”

After that, the lawsuit says, Romero “increasingly began to treat Plaintiff with hostility,” about which the suit provides examples. In April 2009, Crump formally complained about Romero, and things just got worse from there—Crump alleges that Romero threatened to fire him. By late May 2009, Crump was called into a meeting with Grady, Romero and Lt. Pape from McDonnell’s office. By the end of the meeting, Crump said he was told, “You will respect John Romero.”

Crump met with Bratton in June 2009, then left for a month vacation. Upon his return, he was reassigned to the all-civilian 911 Communications Division and then to Skid Row.

On the stand during the civil trial, KPCC radio’s Frank Stoltz reported, “Grady said that Romero’s ‘aggressive discipline’ of Crump was for cause, not for retaliation after he complained, and that she decided to transfer Crump to the Skid Row bicycle detail because the two were not getting along. Grady said that the sergeant did not lose rank or pay in the move from media relations, and that none of the department’s actions occurred because he is gay.”

None of the published reports about the case or trial indicate what that “cause” for “aggressive discipline” was. Presumably that will be spelled out later by someone close to the case who is no longer legally constrained from talking. But it does not take a stretch of the imagination to think that Crump—who had a plum job as an LAPD spokesperson from which he could then be promoted—might consider being shunted off to Skid Row as not only retaliation but a virtual career ender.

The civil trial is still underway as Frontiers goes to press. But regardless of the outcome, the LAPD may once again be saddled with a Religious Right PR problem, apparently abetted by people at the top of the organization. And ironically this all allegedly happened in the media relations department, where addressing such issues and building community trust for the LADP is supposed to be a specialty.

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