LOS ANGELES – A Black Los Angeles police officer in the department’s Media Relations Division who sued the city alleging that the unit director referred to him and a Black colleague as “boys” won a round in court Friday in his bid to obtain background information on the officers promoted ahead of him.
LAPD Officer Raymond Brown maintains in his Los Angeles Superior Court whistleblower suit that he was denied advancements for complaining about discrimination and harassment. In the motion before Judge Theresa M. Traber, Brown’s lawyers sought, among other things, all documents relied upon by the department in rejecting Brown for the promotions and selecting the other candidates instead.
“The custodian of records is to produce at the hearing all potentially responsive documents for in-camera inspection by the court,” the judge wrote in setting an April 3 date for the non-public session, during which Traber will determine which records are relevant and should be turned over to Brown’s lawyers.
In their court papers, Brown’s lawyers say they expect the city to contend that the officers selected instead of the plaintiff were more qualified than him.
“In this motion, plaintiff seeks documents relied upon in the selection process to prove that defendant’s proffered reasons for selecting the other officers are pretextual,” Brown’s lawyers stated in their court papers.
Brown was hired by the LAPD in 2005 and in 2015 was assigned to the online unit in the Media Relations Division, according to his complaint filed in May 2020.
Brown alleges that in late 2017, Josh 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 that 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.
The suit alleges that both Sandoval and Rubenstein, who are not defendants in the suit, 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.
Brown and the other Black officer both complained to Preciado about allegedly being addressed by Rubenstein as “boys” and the sergeant then 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, and suffered damage to his reputation and to his ability to obtain promotions due to the LAPD’s alleged retaliation, according to the suit, which is set for trial on Aug. 29.