A Fresno Superior Court judge has dismissed a workplace harassment and discrimination lawsuit against the Fresno Police Department and three detectives.
Fresno police Chief Jerry Dyer said Friday that the case brought by Sgt. Paul Cervantes was dismissed in its entirety.
“I’m very pleased with the judge’s ruling,” Dyer said. “Any time you have personnel issues it can be very damaging to the department’s image as well as employee relations within the organization. Now that the judge has ruled this case had no merit, my hope is we can truly put this behind us and move forward.”
On Friday, a representative at the law office of Cervantes’ lawyer, John W. Phillips, said the office had not received notice of the dismissal of the case.
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Cervantes, a decorated sergeant, had said he was subject to workplace harassment and discrimination because of his Hispanic ethnicity. He accused Sgt. Tim Tietjen and detectives Brad Alcorn and Cary Phelps of smearing his reputation with false accusations and spreading rumors that he was a dirty cop. Tietjen, Alcorn and Phelps are white.
In the lawsuit, Cervantes said he was the target of “pervasive, severe, and racially motivated” discrimination from January 2008 to the present.
Cervantes accused the defendants of intentionally providing “false and misleading information to Internal Affairs” to cause the department to investigate him and other Hispanic officers “in an attempt to cause disciplinary action to be instituted, force their demotion and departure from the department.”
Cervantes was arrested in early 2009 and charged with felony auto theft in connection with the theft of a drug dealer’s sport utility vehicle. His highly publicized criminal trial relied heavily on the testimony of police informants. In May 2009, a Superior Court jury took less than three hours to find Cervantes not guilty.
Cervantes said he has complained to his superiors, including Dyer, but they have done nothing to protect his rights to be free from racial discrimination in the workplace. He said he was demoted from the department’s anti-gang MAGEC unit to the patrol division.
In spite of what has occurred through this litigation and even through this judge’s ruling, he’s never lost focus of his job.
Fresno police Chief Jerry Dyer, on Sgt. Paul Cervantes
Dyer said Friday that Cervantes is working in the department’s Southeast policing district in the patrol division. “And he continues to do outstanding police work every day. In spite of what has occurred through this litigation and even through this judge’s ruling, he’s never lost focus of his job.”
Cervantes, who has nearly 20 years of police experience, began his career as a police officer in Dinuba, where he was named “Latino Police Officer of the Year.” He then worked for the Salinas Police Department, where he was awarded a Meritorious Lifesaving honor.
He joined the Fresno department in 2002 and received more than 30 letters of commendation for work on the SWAT team, the Violent Crimes Suppression Team and the Major Narcotics Unit, where he was named “Narcotics Officer of the Year” in 2005.
He spent three years as a homicide detective before being promoted to sergeant and was a supervisor of the anti-gang unit for three years.