LOS ANGELES – A lawsuit brought against the city of Los Angeles by a Black Los Angeles police officer who works in LAPD’s Media Relations division is back in court after the settlement of his whistleblower case announced in January fell apart.
A lawyer for the City Attorney’s Office made the announcement during a hearing Thursday in Officer Raymond Brown’s lawsuit, in which the plaintiff alleges the division’s director referred to him and a Black colleague as “boys” in 2017 and that he suffered a backlash when he complained.
Judge Theresa M. Traber scheduled a June 21 trial-setting conference.
Brown sued in May 2020, alleging he was denied promotions for protesting about discrimination and harassment and because management believed he would testify in support of a supervisor who is also suing the city. Josh Rubenstein, who was not a named defendant but whose alleged actions are outlined in Brown’s court papers, previously declined to comment on the suit.
Brown was hired by the LAPD in 2005 and since 2015 has been assigned to the online unit in the Media Relations division, according to his complaint. He alleges that in late 2017, Rubenstein — who as commanding officer of the LAPD’s Public Communications Group oversees the sworn and civilian staff of the Media Relations Division — asked Brown and another Black officer, “How are you boys?” and repeated the greeting to the pair within a week.
The term “boy” has historically been used to degrade and dehumanize Black men, so the two officers asked Rubenstein not to address them that way again, according to the suit, which alleges Rubenstein “dismissively” responded that he would be mindful of their request, then left “visibly angry.”
Days later, Rubenstein addressed Brown and the other Black officer as “boys” yet again, but this time in “a snide and mocking tone of voice,” the suit alleges. Within a week, Rubenstein made the remark for a fourth time and was overheard by Capt. Patricia Sandoval, who apologized to Brown and the other Black officer and told them that she informed Rubenstein it was “not cool” to address them in such a manner, the suit alleges.
Sandoval also previously declined comment on the suit, which alleged that both she and Rubenstein subsequently became “cold and dismissive” toward the two Black officers and that both made statements indicating they would not advance within the unit and should transfer.
In October 2018, Brown applied for two promotions within the unit, and although he was the most qualified for both jobs, Rubenstein and Sandoval picked other candidates, according to the plaintiff’s court papers.
In April 2019, the supervisor for both Black officers, Sgt. Frank Preciado, sued the city for alleged race discrimination, race harassment and retaliation. Preciado alleged he experienced retaliation after he complained about being banned from speaking Spanish and a final status conference in his case is scheduled June 3.
Brown and the other Black officer both complained to Preciado about allegedly being addressed by Rubenstein as “boys” and the sergeant in turn told Sandoval, Brown’s suit alleges. Brown, who was again denied a promotion in July 2019, believes he did not get the job because management in Media Relations believed he would testify on behalf of Preciado in the sergeant’s lawsuit, according to his lawsuit.
Brown has lost income, overtime, pension and other privileges and benefits, as well as suffered damage to his reputation and to his ability to obtain promotions due to the LAPD’s alleged retaliation, according to the suit.