A female homicide detective who was demoted to uniform patrol has sued Salt Lake City and a police sergeant for allegedly violating her rights of association, free speech, property and due process.
Jill D. Candland filed suit in federal court on Monday alleging that her demotion was "in retaliation of Candland's union involvement, her gender and in violation of her constitutional rights."Candland has worked for the department since 1982, was assigned to be a homicide detective in 1989 and was transferred back to uniform patrol in 1997. She has served as vice president of the Salt Lake Police Association since 1989 and currently is association president.
She is asking $5.5 million in damages, legal fees and other costs.
The lawsuit also accuses Police Chief Ruben Ortega of engaging in "a systematic scheme to destroy" the 500-member police association.
"Chief Ortega and his administration have engaged in a pattern of conduct to intentionally deplete the Association's resources," the lawsuit said. "For instance, members of the Association are being disciplined for off-duty conduct which has no connection with their duties or job performances. The discipline being imposed is clearly disproportionate with the Department's past practices."
The lawsuit also claims that police officers have had to hire attorneys to appeal their disciplinary actions while the police department gets free help.
"The Association has been informed that the changes in disciplinary practices were made in large part to `bankrupt' the Association and its members," the lawsuit said. "Chief Ortega has stated that the money the Department has spent on attorney's fees is a `drop in the bucket' compared to the amount of legal fees spent breaking the union in Phoenix," where Ortega was police chief from 1980 to 1991.
Ortega is out of town and was unavailable for comment Tuesday.
Salt Lake City Attorney Roger Cutler said on Tuesday that city officials have not been served with legal papers and therefore could not comment.
"We haven't seen it. We'll have to see the complaint to evaluate it," Cutler said.
Candland also named Salt Lake Police Sgt. Jerry Mendez in her lawsuit.
"Mendez has ridiculed, demeaned, harassed and discriminated against Candland based on her gender," the lawsuit said.
The lawsuit said Mendez referred to Candland in derogatory terms, treated her differently, denied her overtime and had her transferred from homicide to patrol partly because she is female.
But the issues outlined in the lawsuit have a larger context, Candland said Tuesday. Ortega has demonstrated a continued pattern of violating the rights of officers, she said.
"It's about a whole pattern of cronyism, discrimination, retaliation, abuses, a double standard and a total disregard for our Constitutional rights," Candland said. "When an officer pins on a badge, they shouldn't give up their Constitutional rights."
Candland said her run-ins with the department last year, on which the lawsuit is based, was the straw that broke the camel's back from the union's perspective. Efforts to resolve officer's grievances through department channels have traditionally failed, she said.
"We regret that (the lawsuit) is the action we have to take, but from this point on we'll address our concerns in the courts because that appears to be the only avenue that will listen to us and give us justice," Candland said.
A police union survey of its membership conducted in 1997 showed an overwhelming majority wanted a new police chief. But Mayor Deedee Corradini expressed confidence in Ortega's leadership and said that both labor and management could repair their relationship.
Ortega's relationship with the police department in Phoenix was even more acrimonious.
When Ortega was hired for Salt Lake City in 1992, Mike Petchel, president of the Phoenix Law Enforcement Association, refused to talk to the Deseret News but made it clear that the two had not gotten along.
Pat Cantelme, president of the Phoenix Firefighters Association, said extremely "bad blood" had existed between the police and fire departments during Ortega's tenure.
However, Ortega's supporters point to his accomplishments as an administrator.
In Salt Lake City, Ortega has implemented a wide-ranging Community Oriented Policing Division, secured considerable grant money to add more police officers, got a high-tech communications system for the department and has made strenuous efforts to hire more minority officers.
Ortega also has twice been a semi-finalist for the chief's job for the Los Angeles Police Department, once in 1991 when former L.A. Police Chief Daryl Gates resigned and again in 1997 when former L.A. Police Chief Willie Williams resigned.
He also is highly regarded on the national scene.
"I have tremendous respect for Chief Ortega, who served on the National Violence Against Women Advisory Council," said U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno in 1997. "The chief has been an outstanding leader on issues such as domestic violence and community policing and he has made a real contribution to law enforcement throughout the country."