While the Fresno Police Department dealt with a series of workplace discrimination lawsuits over the past decade, Clovis seemed relatively trouble-free.
But now that's changed. A Clovis police sergeant and a former officer are suing the city in separate lawsuits that both touch on discrimination.
Sgt. Javier Campos, who is Hispanic, contends white officers are treated differently than officers of color.
And former officer Audra Carter, who is white, says she fought off her sergeant's sexual advances and was fired in November 2010 after she began dating a black Clovis police officer.
Campos filed his complaint in Fresno County Superior Court in July 2011, and Carter filed hers a few months later. A jury could decide Campos' lawsuit later this year, and Carter's civil trial is scheduled for May.
Both seek unspecified damages for discrimination, retaliation, harassment and creating a hostile work environment.
Clovis City Attorney David Wolfe wouldn't talk about the allegations, but said last week he is confident the city will prevail in court.
Clovis police spokeswoman Janet Stoll-Lee said Chief Janet Davis and officers involved in the cases would not be available for interviews. The Clovis Police Officers Association won't take a position on the cases.
But a 27-year veteran of the Clovis police force who retired in December said recently that discrimination has been a long-kept secret in the department.
Former Sgt. Ed Mora said officers of color and women have tolerated insensitive remarks to stay in good standing, and administrators have rationalized that "we're not as bad as we used to be."
"Clovis police are a tight-knit group," he said. "We like to handle our problems internally."
'Code of silence'
An expert on discrimination within police ranks said it's not unusual for officers to make claims of it, but it's rare for them to go public because of a long-standing "code of silence."
Discrimination also is hard to prove, mainly because other officers would have to witness it and speak out, said Deborah A. Parsons, a professor of criminal justice and assistant dean of the College of Social & Behavioral Sciences at California State University, San Bernardino.
Speaking out could lead to retaliation or being ostracized, Parsons said. In addition, police brass are good at justifying their actions by documenting incidents in which the officers showed bad judgment, she said.
"It's a no-win situation, even if you win," said Parsons, who is a reserve officer with about 25 years of law enforcement experience. "Once an officer sues the department, you know you will get blackballed."
A review of court records shows that Campos' and Carter's cases are the only workplace discrimination suits against the Clovis Police Department in the past 10 years. The Fresno Police Department in the same period has faced seven discrimination complaints by its officers.
In June, the city of Fresno announced a settlement with deputy police chiefs Robert Nevarez and Sharon Shaffer, who alleged that Chief Jerry Dyer created a hostile work environment. Another complaint, filed by Capt. Al Maroney, is pending.
A year ago, a U.S. District Court jury found that Fresno police didn't discriminate against a black officer who filed suit after a traffic stop escalated into a full-blown investigation.
After the verdict, almost all the eight jurors said they felt there was some sort of bullying or discrimination against officer Gerald Miller, but the evidence wasn't conclusive.
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