LOS ANGELES – A Black Los Angeles police officer is suing the city for discrimination and harassment, alleging an anonymous department employee’s Instagram account included a meme comparing the plaintiff to the late renegade LAPD Officer Christopher Dorner.
Officer Ryon Stewart’s Los Angeles Superior Court lawsuit alleges discrimination, harassment and retaliation as well as failure to prevent those same allegations. Stewart seeks unspecified damages.
A representative for the City Attorney’s Office could not be reached for comment on the suit brought July 12.
Stewart was hired in September 2019, graduated from the police academy five months later and was assigned as a probationary officer to the West Valley Division, the suit states. He has been subjected up until the present to discrimination, harassment and disparate treatment based upon his race and his age, which is over 40, according to the suit.
Stewart’s supervisors created a discriminatory atmosphere against Black officers and condoned the conduct toward the plaintiff, the suit states.
One training officer who Stewart began working with in April 2020 assigned Stewart to duties that he did not give white officers and which “set plaintiff up for failure,” the suit alleges, including one shift in which the Stewart was ordered to issue at least three moving violation tickets without using 10 of the most common moving vehicle violation codes, the suit states.
Stewart was unable to complete the task and the training officer gave him a poor rating, according to the suit.
The training officer also directed Stewart to complete a written shot gun manipulation test that was outdated and did not reflect the training the plaintiff received in the academy, the suit states.
“This resulted in plaintiff failing the test and being sent back to the academy for remediation,” the suit states.
The training officer also subjected Stewart to a higher level of scrutiny when reviewing his report writing, failing the plaintiff on many of the reports, while not providing him with constructive feedback about his performance, the suit states.
Two other training officers assigned to work with Stewart also subjected him to unfair treatment, prompting him to report one of them to a supervising sergeant, the suit states. However, the LAPD and the command staff “failed to investigate plaintiff’s complaint of harassment and discrimination and otherwise blatantly failed to abate the unlawful conduct,” the suit alleges.
An anonymous LAPD employee maintained an Instagram account called “Choir Practice” that was used to post Internet memes and that was followed by many West Valley Division officers, the suit states.
In December 2020, shortly after Stewart had complained about his alleged disparate treatment, one or more of the operators of the Choir Practice Instagram account began posting racially offensive, discriminatory and harassing memes, all of which were directed toward the plaintiff, the suit alleges.
The first meme was posted was of a Black man’s haircut with the caption, “West valley P1 haircut,” while another posting showed a Black man pointing to his hair with the caption that read, “Now this kids is how your hair should be styled. If they tell you anything, pull the card,” in reference to the race card, according to the suit.
Another meme posting compared Stewart with Christopher Dorner, a Black LAPD officer who committed a series of shootings in multiple counties in 2013, the suit states. Dorner died during a standoff with San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Deputies after a shootout at a cabin in the San Bernardino Mountains.
After Stewart heard one of the training officers call him an imbecile in February 2021, he rebuked her with a remark that included an epithet, prompting supervisors to assign him to desk duty and a captain to tell him his actions were “unbecoming of an LAPD officer” and that he could resign or be fired, the suit states.
Stewart then reported the alleged discriminatory conduct he had experienced as well as the offensive Instagram memes, but was placed on paid suspension and scheduled for counseling, the suit states.
Stewart’s health has been negatively impacted by the stress of his experiences and his ability to promote has been hurt by his suspension, and other officer wrongly have the impression that he is a “problem child and a complainer,” the suit states.