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Jury Awards $4-Million Dollar Verdict For LAPD Captain In Sexual Harassment Case Over Doctored Photo Shared By Cops

Emanuel Shirazi

A female Los Angeles Police Captain was awarded $4-million dollars by a jury for her sexual harassment case against the city over a fake nude photograph that was shared around the department.

A photograph of a half-naked woman whose face was digitally altered to resemble Captain Lillian Carranza, who at the time commanded the Commercial Crimes Division, was shared amongst the LAPD police department creating a hostile work environment for this 33-year department veteran.

After five days of deliberation, the jury awarded Carranza $4 million in damages for the extensive damages from the sexual harassment. The jury awarded Carranza $1.5 million in past non-economic damages and $2.5 million in future non-economic damages.

The Los Angeles County Superior Court jurors found the harassment to have created a hostile work environment and that the Department did nothing to stop its circulation or explain the image was a fake despite her plea to the police chief to do so in 2018. Jurors found that the LAPD failed to take immediate and appropriate action to address the harassment as required by California law.

Carranza had reported the photo to the Chief of Police in November 2018 and complained of severe harassment. Carranza testified that the image was so traumatizing that she was hospitalized with severe high blood pressure as she struggled with suicidal ideation. As a result of the traumatizing experience, Carranza had to double her blood pressure medication not to mention having to be constantly haunted by the experience knowing the photo was seen by dozens of co-workers and supervisors and will always be out there. Carranza was so stressed by the proceedings that she could not attend the final verdict.

In the trial, the city argued that Carranza had first seen the image when her attorney showed her the image in the workplace and argued that she was not the subject of comments, jokes or anything resembling sexual harassment in the workplace.

However, LAPD Chief Michel Moore had testified that the image was intended to “ridicule, embarrass or harass or smear” her, but had opted not to send a department-wide message to address Carranza’s complaint because he feared the additional backlash the department would have during a time when the LAPD was already handling an incident with a racist meme mocking the killing of George Floyd shared by an LAPD officer. Moore expressed his reason for not acceding to Carranza’s request as there being a large contrast in scale of backlash between the two incidents at the time and not wanting to create further embarrassment with others potentially seeking out the photo.

Carranza alleged that the LAPD command staff knew the image was being circulated, along with disparaging comments about her, but didn’t alert her. Instead, it wasn’t until a colleague told her, that she learned about the photo. Even after Carranza sued the department, the chief still did not publicly tell his officers it was fake or direct them not to share the image as Carranza requested. Moore argues that supposedly the department’s effort was focused on finding the person responsible for distributing the harassing image.

In the investigation of Carranza’s complaint, it was found that the photograph had been distributed in at least four locations and was portrayed to various officers as an image of Carranza. The investigation was unable to identify who initiated the photo-sharing.

The defense argued that no one in the workplace showed Carranza the photo or made any comments to her about it and she was not the subject of sexually hostile interactions in her workplace such as teasing remarks.

The LAPD has a motto of standing up for your rights, however when it comes to upholding those policies and procedures against sexual harassment especially for the women in their employment, the LAPD has a history of failing to do so.

Women in the Los Angeles Police Department represent only 26% of its ranks. Carranza’s incident is one of several in which women employed by the LAPD allege that leaders have tolerated and done nothing to prevent a crude and sexist culture among the department.

Carranza has been the subject of prior derogatory incidents during her career. In November 2013, Carranza was notified by a colleague who had captured a recording of a then-detective teaching a training class who had called Carranza “a very cute little Hispanic lady” and that she had “been swapped around a bunch of times.” The department knew of the recording yet chose to not tell her about it just as they had in this latest incident.

The LAPD has a long history of having to pay for their sexual harassment crimes against the women in their department. Carranza’s photo incident came months after the City paid out a female officer who accused an internal affairs lieutenant of sexual harassment and of having ordered surveillance on the victim when she rejected his sexual advances.

Additionally, in 2020, the city paid $1.5 million to settle a lawsuit after a police detective was assaulted, abused, and blackmailed by a fellow officer and Department officials had ignored her complaints. That officer was also sentenced to three years of probation on one count of misdemeanor injury of a spouse or girlfriend.

Sexual harassment is prohibited under California and federal law. It is illegal for employers to allow anyone to be sexually harassed at work. Employers, especially those with male dominated cultures, need to take immediate and strong corrective action when sexual harassment complaints are made. This kind of culture will not be changed until such complaints are taken seriously and comprehensively addressed as the law requires.

What do you think about the LAPD’s history of handling female officer’s complaints?

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