Untrue Blue

Jury Finds SBPD Retaliated Against Gay Ex-Cop

by Lindsey Wallace A Santa Barbara jury found the Santa
Barbara Police Department guilty of retaliation toward gay ex-cop
Ruben Lino, though it ruled against Lino’s charges of
discrimination based on sexual preference. After 18 days of
testimony involving 23 witnesses, the visibly wearied jury
deliberated for three days before awarding Lino $431,000 in damages
and lost earnings Monday afternoon. Lino’s attorney, Janean Acevedo
Daniels, acknowledged the discrimination case was tough to prove
because many officers insisted they did not know Lino was gay.
(Seven jurors supported Lino’s discrimination charges, two short of
the number required for a favorable ruling.)

Lino, 28, left the SBPD in 2003 after three years on the force,
claiming he’d been harassed after he complained about homophobic
remarks made by some of his fellow officers. Lino also charged he
was not receiving backup quickly enough to feel safe. One month
after quitting, Lino sought to return to the department. Although
Police Chief Cam Sanchez testified Lino was an exemplary officer,
he ultimately chose not to rehire Lino because of a bad credit
report. Lino claimed the credit report exaggerated the true extent
of his debts; a retired sergeant who formerly conducted background
checks buttressed this argument, saying the credit examination did
not pass the smell test. Lino charged the department’s decision
prevented him from landing jobs in other departments. After the
verdict was read, several jurors explained they distrusted the
department because it did not follow up on Lino’s objections to the
credit report when he first made them. The jurors said they did not
want the city to suffer, but Lino should be compensated for his
loss of earnings. Some jurors thought he should get much more than
he did, while others felt he shouldn’t get anything. The jurors
compromised at $431,000.

“I’m okay with the verdict. This case was about the principle,
never about the money,” Lino said. He is not interested in
returning to work at the SBPD. With the trial behind him, Lino
hopes to be hired by the Los Angeles Police Department; he has
passed that department’s preliminary tests and will hear its
decision in 15-30 days. City attorney Steve Wiley said he was
disappointed by the verdict, but that it was too soon to say
whether City Hall would appeal it or not.


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