Jury awards $13 million to LAPD officers accused of drawing Hitler mustache on arrestee

Los Angeles police officers walk past the department's headquarters in downtown Los Angeles. (Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times)

A jury awarded $13.1 million in damages Wednesday to two male Los Angeles police officers who sued the city for gender discrimination, alleging they were singled out in an internal investigation into whoever drew a Hitler-like mustache on an arrestee.

The case stems from a January 2017 incident in which officers Stephen Glick and Alfred Garcia and their two female police partners responded to a suspected drunk driving collision, according to their suit.

The officers arrested a motorist. After he was found passed out in his jail cell, he was taken to an area hospital, the suit says. Two days later, the man lodged a complaint with the police department, alleging that his eyebrows and mustache had been shaved off, and someone had drawn various objects on his body with a sharpie, including a Hitler-style mustache, eyebrows, male genitalia and spelled out a Spanish slur that roughly translates to “male prostitute.”

According to the suit, when the department launched an investigation into the incident, internal affairs detectives automatically cast suspicion on the pair rather than on their female partners.

This, the suit contends, despite evidence suggesting the two male officers were never left alone with the arrestee. Glick's body-worn camera was on for the duration of the arrest, with the exception of 12 minutes when the man was being booked at Newton Division station by Glick and his female partner, according to the suit.

“All of the evidence pointed to gender discrimination, from focusing on the males to the exclusion of the females," said attorney Matt McNicholas, who filed the suit on the officers' behalf.

Then-police chief Charlie Beck eventually recommended the officers be fired for allegations of battery, and they were directed to a disciplinary panel called a board of rights, according to the suit.

The suit cites testimony from Los Angeles Police Protective League director Jamie McBride, who says he was told by a department official that the officers were being investigated because "this is what guys do, not females." McBride said in a deposition that he learned that paramedics have been known for years to scrawl messages on patients they are transporting, which he later told department officials.

No officers rode in the ambulance with the injured suspect to the hospital, the suit says.

Glick and Garcia were eventually cleared of wrongdoing without appearing before a board of rights panel, but they still suffered career setbacks as a result of the incident, their suit says.

After four days of testimony, the jury came back with a unanimous verdict awarding the officers damages. The city could still contest the monetary amount.

A spokesman for the Los Angeles city attorney's office declined to comment on the matter.

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This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.