Sergeant's discrimination case vs. Clovis PD begins

The Fresno BeeJanuary 28, 2013 

A civil trial began Monday for a Clovis police sergeant who has accused his superiors of having double-standards when it comes to disciplining officers.

Both sides agreed that Sgt. Javier Campos, 41, is a respected crime-fighter who has worked for the Clovis Police Department since 1995.

What's in dispute in Fresno County Superior Court is why Campos was put on leave from February 2010 to June 2011. He says it's because of his outspoken support of Hispanics, blacks and women within the department.

But Chief Janet Davis testified Monday that Campos was unfit for duty after becoming "unglued" during a gun-training exercise.

Campos, a Hispanic, filed his discrimination lawsuit in Fresno County Superior Court in July 2011. He is seeking back pay and damages for emotional distress.

In opening remarks, attorney Mark Kitabayashi, who is representing the city of Clovis, said Davis had to put Campos on leave because he "exploded" while receiving constructive criticism at the gun range.

Kitabayashi described Campos as "a highly respected, decorated officer" who was known to be "calm, cold and collected under pressure" -- until the gun-range incident. "The chief had to find out why he snapped," Kitabayashi told jurors.

But attorney Poncho Baker, who represents Campos, told the jury that Campos' superiors turned against him after he helped a female co-worker file a complaint in fall 2009.

Baker said his client's harassment hit a boiling point in February 2010 when range master Richard Ashcraft, a white Clovis police officer, was conducting training on the proper way to clear a jammed gun. When Ashcraft questioned Campos' technique, Campos became angry and confronted Ashcraft, cursing him and demanding to know: "Do you have a problem with that?"

Ashcraft just stared at Campos and walked away.

Campos told his superiors that he felt disrespected because Ashcraft was a subordinate. Davis saw it differently.

Because Campos became enraged -- he pointed his finger in Ashcraft's face and in the face of Sgt. James Bold, who witnessed the confrontation -- Davis ordered her administrative staff to take Campos' gun and badge.

She put Campos on leave and later determined he was unfit for duty for his own safety and the safety of fellow officers and the public, she said.

"It was more than a verbal altercation," Davis testified Monday. "It was completely out of character for him to snap, for him to come unglued. It was a pretty serious deal."

But the chief admitted that it was an isolated incident because Campos never had been written up before. She said Campos never threatened Ashcraft, never touched him and kept his gun in its holster. Though Campos cursed Ashcraft, the chief admitted that she also has used curse words to get a point across.

After the verbal confrontation, Campos and Ashcraft shook hands and promised not to hold a grudge, Baker said. In doing that, Davis testified, Campos showed professionalism and good judgment in de-escalating the incident.

Baker told the jury that the incident at the gun range helped illustrate a double-standard within the department. That same day, Baker said, Ashcraft kicked a black Clovis officer in the buttocks three times. The black officer, Louis Jackson, complained to his superiors, but Ashcraft never was disciplined, Baker said.

On the other hand, Campos had to undergo three fitness-for-duty exams before he was reinstated in June 2011, Baker said.

While Campos was the subject of an Internal Affairs investigation, Davis testified she never initiated one against Ashcraft.

The reporter can be reached at (559) 441-6434, plopez@fresnobee.com or @beecourts on Twitter.

The Fresno Bee is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service