The City of Beverly Hills has settled another lawsuit involving former Beverly Hills Police Department (BHPD) Chief Sandra Spagnoli over claims of racial discrimination. The Los Angeles Superior Court case, Routt, et. al. v Beverly Hills, involved three Black Traffic Control Officers who claimed they had been demoted on account of their race. The City has already paid approximately $8 million in judgments and settlements in cases alleging various forms of discrimination by the former chief, who resigned in April. Though unreported until now, the City settled the Routt case in November for $375,000.
“For quite some time, I have discussed how a police department allowing discrimination against its employees based on race, national origin or other protected characteristics is a danger to the community,” attorney Bradley Gage told the Courier. Gage also referred to incidents of alleged racial profiling of shoppers on Rodeo Drive. “By fighting discrimination within the department, we also help protect the community from racial profilingdiscrimination outside of the department,” he added.
The City made no admission of liability as a part of the settlement, which the Courier reviewed. “We are pleased to bring this litigation to a final conclusion,” Beverly Hills City Attorney Laurence Wiener told the Courier. “The City remains committed to maintaining a respectful work environment free from harassment, retaliation and discrimination.”
The lawsuit was brought on behalf of Traffic Control Officers Gregory Routt, Alisha Johnson and Kearran Hayes. According to the complaint, the officers had achieved the rank of Parking Enforcement Supervisor at the time Spagnoli took over the force in 2016. Due to reorganizations enacted by Spagnoli, the three were reclassified back to Traffic Control Officers in February of 2017.
While the demotion did not lead to an immediate decrease in salary, it did have a financial impact. The three plaintiffs lost their contractual cost of living pay increases, which would have annually increased their base pay, overtime pay and retirement pay. As a part of a broader restructuring, Parking Enforcement Officers and Parking Control Officers were also reclassified as Traffic Control Officers. In their cases, though, the change resulted in a raise. According to the complaint, “It was only the 5 Black supervisors who were affected adversely by the ‘reclassification.'”
In the complaint, the officers allege that “racial animus was a motivation for Chief Spagnoli’s decision to ‘merge’ the Parking Enforcement Division within the Police Department.” The complaint also details a number of interactions with Spagnoli that the Black officers felt indicated a discomfort or “animus” toward Black people.
Spagnoli, a 33-year law enforcement veteran at the time of her appointment, became the first female police chief in Beverly Hills’ history. Within the following four years, at least 21 current and former employees filed actions accusing the chief of misconduct that included anti-Semitism, homophobia, and affairs with subordinates. The lawsuits also contained allegations of insensitive and discriminatory behavior by other officers on the force.
“In the department, there were depositions claiming that supervisors and/or managers made comments about African-Americans that should never be tolerated in the workplace,” said Gage, who has represented most of the claims against Spagnoli. “This includes referring to African-Americans as ‘lazy’ or members of the Black Mafia. We are not aware of the City taking any corrective action against those employees who were accused of racism. Indeed, it appears they have been promoted.”
The conclusion of the Routt case marks the last of Gage’s pending lawsuits against the BHPD regarding Spagnoli’s actions.