Judge Colleen Sterne is allowing a lawsuit to proceed against the Santa Barbara Police Department by a former dispatcher, Bridget Bryden, who claimed she was fired in 2016 after alerting higher-ups to what she claimed were unsafe working conditions. Bryden alleged she was fired after complaining that the qualification standards for new dispatchers had been dangerously dropped in order to fill chronically vacant positions. She claimed the new hires posed safety problems because they were not sufficiently adept at multi-tasking.
Attorneys for City Hall insisted Bryden quit after it was brought to her attention she was the subject of an internal affairs investigation. They sought to have the case dismissed on the procedural argument there were no triable issues of fact. In a sharply worded opinion, Sterne rejected that argument, insisting a very real difference remains as to whether Bryden had, in fact, quit or was terminated.
Bryden claimed that an internal affairs investigation was launched against her only a few days after she blew the whistle. City attorneys insist the timing was coincidental and that the cause of the investigation was legitimate. Sterne opined, “The timing of this investigation is certainly suspect.” Sterne’s ruling clears the case to go to trial, likely sometime in March.