The Los Angeles Police Department gets sued. It gets sued a lot. And it’s not just their civilian victims suing them. It turns out that an organization dedicated to violence, secrecy, machismo, and the defense of capital is, who’d have thought, not a very nice place to work. Which is why their own employees sue the LAPD a lot also.
Like for instance just last year LAPD Media Relations Officer Frank Preciado sued, alleging that his supervisor Josh Rubenstein1 didn’t allow Preciado and others to speak Spanish in the office. Preciado also alleged that Rubenstein banned Media Relations employees from tuning in to Spanish Language TV on the Department’s monitors.
The situation is not only discriminatory according to Preciado but, given that his official duties include speaking to Spanish language media folks, it also prevents him from doing his job properly. Rubenstein is LAPD’s most visible Anglophone public information officer. The dude is everywhere and he’s always got time for the media. Unless, I guess, they’re working in Spanish.
Preciado’s suit got some media attention in 2019 when it was filed, but not much since. That little bit is more than Raymond Brown’s suit, filed in May 2020, received, though. And Brown’s suit also hinges on Rubenstein’s weirdo antics, in particular the fact that apparently Rubenstein thinks it’s acceptable to refer to Black LAPD officers as “boys”.
And not just in a booth in a dark cop bar or in private cop Facebook groups, but actually to their faces, as a thing to say out loud. Not just once but many times. Not only that, but when Brown repeatedly complained to superiors, Rubenstein and Captain Patricia Sandoval proceeded to tell him that he’d never get promoted if he stayed in Media Relations. Then they proceeded to pass him over for promotion multiple times.
Implicit bias training, or whatever the next nonsolution recommended by the National Police Foundation happens to be, isn’t going to fix a problem like this one. And here’s a copy of Brown’s complaint. And here are some transcribed selections from the complaint, maybe useful to think about next time Rubenstein’s on TV telling you that something or another wasn’t the cop’s fault:
1. At all times relevant hereto, Josh Rubenstein was and is the Director in charge of Media Relations Division.
2. Media Relations Division was and is housed on the second floor of the LAPD Headquarters building. In 2017, the Online Unit—where Plaintiff was assigned—had a small office on the second floor. The remainder of the employees in the Division were housed in a large, open office space connected t the Online Unit office by a short hallway.
3. On a date in or around late 2017, Director Josh Rubenstein greeted the officers in Media Relations Division’s open office space as “ladies, gents, and officers” and, immediately thereafter, approached the Online Unit office and stated, “How are you boys?” At the time, only Plaintiff and Police Officer III Lyle Knight were present in the Online Unit office. Both Plaintiff and Officer Knight are African-American.
4. Within approximately one week, Rubenstein again asked Plaintiff and Officer Knight, “How are you boys?”
5. Since the term “boy” has historically been used to degrade and even dehumanize African-American men, Plaintiff and Officer Knight politely asked Rubenstein on that second occasion not to address them as “boys”.
6. Rubenstein stated dismissively that he would be mindful of their request, and then walked away visibly angry.
7. Plaintiff and Officer Knight reported Rubenstein’s statements to their immediate supervisor, Sgt. Frank Preciado.
8. Plaintiff reasonably believed that his complaints about Rubenstein addressing him and Officer Knight as “boys” disclosed violations of California Government Code section 12940, et seq., and other applicable federal, state, and local statutes and regulations.
9. Just days later, Rubenstein addressed Plaintiff and Officer Knight as “boys” for a third time. This time, however, Rubenstein did so in a snide and mocking tone of voice. Moreover, Rubenstein said “boys” so loudly that even Sgt. Preciado, who was sitting both outside of and a significant distance away from the Online Unit office, heard it.
10. Sgt. Preciado reported Rubenstein’s demeaning statements to Captain Patricia Sandoval.
11. Within approximately one week, Rubenstein addressed Plaintiff and Officer Knight as “boys” for a fourth time.
12. On this occasion, Captain Sandoval immediately approached Plaintiff and Officer Knight from her office across the hall.
13. Captain Sandoval told them that she had heard Rubenstein’s comment; that she was sorry; and that she had told Rubenstein it was “not cool” to address Plaintiff and Officer Knight in such a manner.
14. Immediately after Rubenstein’s fourth time addressing Plaintiff and Officer Knight as “boys”, both Rubenstein and Captain Sandoval became cold and dismissive toward Plaintiff and Officer Knight.
15. In 2018, both Rubenstein and Captain Sandoval made statements indicating that Plaintiff and Officer Knight would not advance within Media Relations Division, and that they should leave the Division.
16. In or around October of 2018, Plaintiff applied for two Police Officer III upgrade positions that had been advertised in Media Relations Division.
17. Plaintiff was the most qualified officer for the positions, but Rubenstein and Captain Sandoval passed over Plaintiff and selected less qualified officers instead.
18. Shortly after Plaintiff was rejected for the positions, a supervisor close to Captain Sandoval told Plaintiff that he (Plaintiff) had been the most qualified candidate and that in any other division, he would have been selected.
19. In April 2019, Sgt. Frank Preciado filed a lawsuit against the LAPD and the City of Los Angeles for race discrimination, race harassment, and retaliation in violation of the California Fair Employment and Housing Act.
20. The allegations in Sgt. Preciado’s lawsuit related to orders given by Captain Sandoval in 2017 and 2018 prohibiting the use of Spanish within Media Relations Division, and actions taken against Preciado after he complained about those orders.
21. Sgt. Preciado’s lawsuit received extensive media coverage in or around June 2019.
22. Upon information and belief, Department supervisors, including Josh Rubenstein, formed the belief that Plaintiff would support Sgt. Preciado in his lawsuit by testifying truthfully about the actions Department supervisors took against Preciado, which actions Plaintiff reasonably believed violated Government Code section 12940, et seq., and other applicable federal, state, and local statutes and regulations.
23. In or around July of 2019, Plaintiff applied for another Police Officer III upgrade position within Media Relations Division. Once again, Plaintiff was the most qualified officer for the position, but was rejected in lieu of a less qualified officer.
24. After Plaintiff was rejected for the upgrade position, a Media Relations Division supervisor told Plaintiff that in making their selection decision, the supervisors had to consider the fact that Sgt. Frank Preciado’s lawsuit was pending, and that Plaintiff is in Preciado’s unit—referring to the fact that the supervisors believed Plaintiff would testify on behalf of Preciado in his lawsuit.
25. As a result of the Department’s actions against Plaintiff, he has lost and will continue to lose income, overtime, pension, and other privileges and benefits. In addition, Plaintiff has sustained and will continue to sustain damage to his reputation, and his ability to advance, promote, and/or obtain coveted positions in the future has been and/or will continue to be adversely affected.