LOS ANGELES — A Riverside police officer who faced racial discrimination and harassment prevailed in his six-year lawsuit against the city.
Roger Sutton, who is African American, was a 17-year veteran of the Riverside Police Department when he approached the ACLU/SC in 1999. After an incident in his K-9 unit he received unequal treatment, and when he objected, the department launched a campaign of harassment against him. Scott Silverman, a noted labor and employment attorney at Morrison & Foerster, took over the case from co-counsel ACLU/SC in 2000.
'I am relieved this is finally over,' said Sutton. 'Hopefully my case encourages the department to apply equal standards of justice to its officers and to not lash out at officers when they protest unfair treatment.'
'This case sends a message that Riverside police need to take racial discrimination and harassment seriously,' said Silverman. 'The leadership of the department treated him unfairly and then retaliated against him when he objected.'
In October 2005, a jury compensated Sutton for lost wages and medical expenses that totaled more than $140,000 and awarded him $1.5 million for emotional distress over the department's treatment of him. The Riverside Police Department then settled the suit rather than continue to pursue an appeal of the jury award. The settlement awarded Mr. Sutton the full amount of the jury verdict.
The ACLU/SC pursued reforms in the Riverside Police Department after the shooting of 19-year-old Tyisha Miller by four officers in December 1998. Miller, who was African American, apparently suffered a seizure while waiting in a locked car. Police shot her 27 times, killing her. The ACLU/SC and civil rights lawyer Constance L. Rice represented Officer Rene Rodriguez, who reported the Riverside Police Department's mishandling of the shooting.
Morrison & Foerster is one of California's largest law firms and took on this case as part of its long-standing commitment to important social and civil rights issues. For more information, visit www.mofo.com.