LOS ANGELES - A judge certified a class action lawsuit affecting more than 100 Ontario police officers after they discovered a hidden camera in the police department's men's locker room two years ago.
U. S. District Judge Virginia A. Phillips Thursday granted Ontario officers their motion for class certification writing: "A class action will permit proposed class members who remain OPD employees to prosecute claims they might otherwise hesitate to bring because they fear retaliation by the OPD (Ontario Police Department)."
Sgt. Steven Trujillo, said he sees a better future for the police department and was pleased with the decision.
"It's great the judge allowed all Ontario officers to pursue their rights collectively," said Trujillo, an officer with the Ontario Police Department. "All of our rights were infringed upon years ago and now we will have the chance to fix that. This is a good step forward."
The American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California, along with the law firms of Lackie & Dammeier LLP, and Bahan & Associates, filed the lawsuit last fall.
"It's just as important for the officers affected as it is for the safety of the community," said Peter Eliasberg, managing attorney with the ACLU of Southern California. "Class certification will allow police officers to seek accountability and answers about the illegal videotaping without fear of retaliation."
Around 1996 a police sergeant arranged for the installation of a hidden surveillance camera in locker room at the direction of the Chief of Police. The camera was concealed in the ceiling and provided a view of the door and the adjacent lockers and dressing area. The surveillance camera was connected to a video tape recorder located in a nearby office. The camera's installation was arranged by a sergeant within the Ontario Police Department and was discovered when the Police Department began the process of moving to a new headquarters.
Approximately 125 persons have been identified on the one videotape that the plaintiffs have seen. The suit names the City of Ontario, the former Chief of Police, and others as defendants.