A Riverside Superior judge threw out two-thirds of a case that alleged discriminatory treatment of Hispanic officers at the Riverside Police Department Dec. 21.
Frank Hoyos, a Riverside police officer since 2001, brought the case. Hoyos was on the department’s SWAT Team, ran the Shooting Range and Firearms Training Unit and was selected as Auto Theft Sergeant in June, 2020, according to his April 4, 2022 complaint.
He believes his complaints alleging unfair promotional practices and unequal distribution of assignments in favor of white officers has damaged his career, his complaint says.
The court’s ruling threw out the claims against individual officers, and left the city as the only defendant.
Riverside city deputy attorney Debra Cook said the tentative ruling was well reasoned, and that it was good that the individual officers were released from the suit, saying they did nothing wrong.
Hoyos’ attorney has not yet responded to a request for comment.
The case brought six causes, each to correct what Hoyos believes to be unequal treatment. His claims for correction of unlawful harassment and abusive working conditions, correction of unlawful whistleblower retaliation, correction of discrimination due to association, correction of unlawful racial retaliation were dismissed by Riverside Superior Judge Chad Firetag’s ruling.
Claims for correction of national origin discrimination and correction of failure to prevent discrimination and retaliation remain.
Hoyos claimed that two white members of the police department, Sgts. Matt Lackey and Brian Smith, have benefitted from favoritism due to their race. He claims they were assigned more overtime than minority members of the department, which resulted in much greater pay.
He claims another Hispanic sergeant, Andy Leyva, determined that Lackey and Smith manipulated the training and backfill systems so that they, instead of Hispanic and African American employees, would be assigned overtime.
The complaint claimed Lackey and Smith once changed the system to kick a black employee out of an assignment.
Leyva reported Lackey and Smith’s actions internally, then threatened to write a letter to the Riverside city manager, at which point Capt. Eric Charrette agreed to insist that all officers have equal opportunity to work backfills and receive overtime, according to the complaint. Charrette left soon after, the complaint says.
Lackey and Smith then began placing themselves, and other white officers, on assignment before the assignment were officially listed, the complaint says.
The two called Hoyos a rat because of his complaints about unfair assignments, and encouraged another sergeant to fight Hoyos with boxing gloves, his complaint claims.
Hoyos also claimed he was targeted for blowing the whistle on what he says was a compromised criminal investigation into a string of vehicle burglaries. He was assigned to identify the burglar, and told management his chief suspect was the brother of a Riverside Major League Baseball player who is related through marriage to Riverside Police Department Deputy Chief Bruce Blomdahl, Hoyos’ complaint says. Blomdahl contacted the suspect and told him to surrender, Hoyos claimed. Hoyos said this violated the department’s rules against tipping off criminal suspects and interfering with criminal investigations, and reported the contact to Internal Affairs.
Hoyos claimed department management caused a hostile and offensive work environment in his detective unit in response to his report, and that they have a history of retaliating against minorities who report misconduct, while sparing the white officers accused of wrongdoing. He said he was denied the chance to compete for a K-9 training position as a result.
Hoyos cited the case of white lieutenant Chad Milby, who was demoted to sergeant after crashing his police car while off duty and drunk, and who since has been promoted again to lieutenant. He also cited the case of Lt. Jimmy Simons, who, Hoyos claimed, was arrested for brandishing a firearm while off duty, but who remains in the department.
Hoyos also said that Smith was encouraged to discipline or remove Hoyos from his position because he reported sexual harassment allegations in the Police Academy.
Case partially dismissed
Firetag threw out Hoyos’ harassment, prohibited retaliation and failure to prevent discrimination causes of action after finding no factual allegations that described harassment, abuse or adverse actions from the department management in the complaint.
Firetag threw out Hoyos’ whistleblower retaliation and racial discrimination cause of action because his complaint was not clear in whether the denial of a K-9 position and Smith’s encouragement to discipline Hoyos was due to his race, or due to his whistleblowing activities.
Firetag threw out Hoyos’ discrimination-based-on-association cause of action after finding that Hoyos did not provide any facts to say he actually associated with other Hispanic or African American officers.
Hoyos has the opportunity to refile his case with the issues pointed out by Firetag amended.
Sole practitioner Helena Wise of Santa Clarita represents Hoyos.
Riverside city deputy attorney Debra Cook represents Riverside, Police Chief Larry Gonzalez, Deputy Chief Bruce Blomdahl, Sgt. Matt Lackey and Sgt. Brian Smith.
Case No. CVRI2201322.
Read the complaint here.
Read the ruling here.