Blue Versus Blue

Ex-Cop Charges Homophobia, Chief Defends Department

by Lindsey Wallace

Santa Barbara Police Chief Cam Sanchez took the witness stand
Monday to defend himself, his department, and the City of Santa
Barbara against claims of broken promises, homophobia, and
discrimination filed by gay ex-cop Ruben Lino, who quit the force
in 2003 after three years of service. In his civil suit, Lino
attests that although he left the force because the work
environment had become homophobic and hostile, he attempted to
rejoin the force after Chief Sanchez promised him — twice — that he
could have his job back if he wanted it. But according to Lino,
when he applied for his former position department managers used
the pretext of a bogus negative credit report to turn him down.
Lino charged the department ignored his claims that the credit
report was faulty and chose not to investigate. Lino charged
further that the real factor behind his non-rehire was his sexual
orientation; Lino had complained of homophobic slurs made by fellow
officers before he left the force in ’03 and got the cold shoulder

But according to Sanchez, nonchalant on the stand, no such
promises were made. Sanchez testified that Lino was a good cop
whose evaluations were uniformly positive, but denied ever
promising Lino he could have his job back. Sanchez said that he did
check with City Administrator Jim Armstrong to make sure the city’s
hiring chill would not preclude him from rehiring Lino, adding that
he didn’t expect the background check to be any problem for

Sanchez testified he first heard of Lino’s concern about
homophobic remarks by fellow officers — including references to a
youthful sexual abuse victim as a “pillow-biter” and other gays as
“freaks” — after the city attorney notified him that Lino had
described such incidents in a sworn deposition on behalf of a gay
landlord and fellow city employee who was suing City Hall for
discriminatory promotional practices. (That claim went to a jury
trial and City Hall prevailed.) Sanchez and Lino both agreed they
met to discuss those allegations, but disagreed over what was said.
Lino claimed he asked for an informal investigation and was upset
he never got one. Sanchez said he ordered supervisors to be
vigilant against harrassment.

According to Lino’s lawsuit, his relationship with other
officers deteriorated after word of his complaint got out. Other
officers were slower to provide backup, Lino said. After he became
concerned for his safety, he decided to leave the department and
further his education. But he changed his mind shortly afterward,
he testified, while on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial after
moving to Washington, D.C. “I decided I couldn’t run from this and
made the decision to take the Chief up on his offer,” Lino

There’s considerable irony in the timing of the Lino trial,
which is expected to last three weeks. Both Chief Sanchez and
leaders of the police union have become increasingly concerned
about the loss of officers and have been quietly lobbying the City
Council for a 10 percent raise and more warm bodies. Although the
department is budgeted for 141 sworn officers, currently there are
only 126 on the force. By this summer, that number is expected to
drop to 117. The money saved by not filling these vacancies either
goes to cover overtime or goes back into the city’s general fund.
Due to chronic budget shortfalls, the city has been eating into its
reserves the last four years and the police department — like all
city departments — has been subject to a hiring “chill.”

Santa Barbara has lost a few officers to retirement, but most of
the departures come from officers seeking employment elsewhere, in
counties where the pay is better. Police union spokesperson
Sergeant Mike McGrew said the staffing shortfall is causing burnout
among officers and could affect public safety. Assistant Chief Rich
Glaus said the shortage was not affecting public safety, but it was
eroding customer service. Councilmember Brian Barnwell estimated it
would cost the city nearly $3 million to cover the cost of a 10
percent raise and bring staffing up to the budgeted level of 141.
At the same time, City Hall is projecting an approximate shortfall
of $1 million. “I’m not saying they don’t deserve it, but that’s a
budget buster,” Barnwell exclaimed.


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